Earlier this summer I saw an advertisement in my apartment’s stairwell for garden plots behind the building. Ripe with enthusiasm, I signed up for a plot and found my way to a nursery where I selected recommended seeds and small plants. After a Saturday morning of muddy knees and careful calculations, I’d turned the plot of land into my own Thoreauean paradise. Stepping back, I projected that, with a little water and weeding, onions, carrots, corn, tomatoes, and watermelon would sprout forth, liberating me from consumerism and mass-market grocery stores.
Of course, such things rarely go as planned. The next week, I checked on the plants. Few seeds had sprouted and the small watermelon plant I’d sown had disappeared. Not withered and died, mind you, but straight-up vanished as though it’d been raptured into plant heaven (hallelujah!). Among all my attempts, only the tomato plant made any progress; it’d added another couple inches to its height and was showing flowers atop, promising fruit in the near future. I noted this with general apathy; I would’ve preferred watermelon. Nonetheless, I paid tribute to my missing melon by pulling some weeds and providing the plot with water.
I returned home the other day after an unplanned month of travel and decided to call upon the garden to see what had become of it. From a distance it appeared as though it had flourished. On second glance this promising view showed itself to consist of a variety of weeds, which, were they to bear fruit, would surely feed a starving nation somewhere, but as far as I was concerned were of little use. I scrounged around them looking for what else had survived the evolutionary binge. It appeared as though my onions and carrots, if they had ever sprouted, were now lost in the array of unwanted. The corn, though appearing rather healthy, seemed a little crowded and perhaps doomed by my overly ambitious seeding. My tomato plant, on the other hand, had fared rather well.
Despite my complete negligence, the bush had outgrown its cage and was bearing so many large green fruits that the plant itself was bowed over onto the ground. Undeterred by this setback, the plant had continued to thrive, growing in a green arch with vines stretched out all across the garden. Whereas everything else seemed to have disappeared or died, the tomato plant had journeyed forth on the wake of the incapables.
Staring at this adaptive wonder, I realized I had a bit of a problem on my hands. With a few days of good sunshine, I was going to be overcome with an abundance of ripe tomatoes. Now would be a wonderful time to admit that I don’t even like tomatoes. Nope, not a smidgen. I just bought the plant because I was told they tend to do quite well in New England, the understatement of the year.
But this is the case with many things in my life. I plant seeds on impulse and reap harvests of neglect; I usually end up with an abundance of things I don’t want or need. A corner of my room is filled with boxes of stuff I’ve yet to find a place for; my most loathsome of chores is going through my closet to select which neglected clothes I’m finally giving away. Even as a student, I have more money than necessity requires but I often complain that I work too much outside of school never allowing time to relax and pursue hobbies…like gardening.
It rarely occurs to me that most of my problems in life are blessings overflowing. Staring at an excessive, ripening tomato plant in my garden, I consider how frequently my cup overflows and instead of returning praise to the one who pours out, I often get frustrated because He managed to spill on the carpet. My most frequent conundrums are blessings coming to fruition and the accompanied stress of scurrying around to collect it all.
The most realistic solution to this overflow would be a few mason jars and some quick self-education on canning. Of course, this leaves me with the problem of “what the heck do I with thirty-four jars of canned tomatoes?” My friends are all getting hitched, so maybe I can save on the registry and give them some fermenting salsa instead. That or just embrace the reputation of “that weird neighbor who keeps insisting we take another jar of molding vegetables”.
Either way, I’m coming to consider that maybe its an act of grace when the Divine doesn’t grant all my requests. If a small plot of garden is any premonition, I doubt I could manage it. Perhaps, someday, this will change. Perhaps someday I’ll know how to handle overflowing grace, how to return blessings with praise. Perhaps. But for now, I’m a bit occupied with these tomatoes.