Friday, October 14, 2011
Sherry Maddox from Lexington shared about the vacant lot next to them where broken bottles, syringes, needles and other garbage have been dumped. They have spent long hours cleaning out the lot, bringing in good soil and compost, planting trees, preparing raised beds and making a chicken coop. Soon a couple of beehives will be added. People are excited not just because what was once an eyesore has become a beautiful site but because it will provide fresh vegetables and hopefully even an income for those who tend the garden.Fair enough, but it made me meditate on the limits of the metaphor. As I read, I though of all the other places the metaphor could work and all the places where it broke down. I also reflected on where she chose to place the emphasis, and how a different emphasis might keep the metaphor not only valid, but somehow more complete.
This seminar was a great opportunity not just to interact with people who love gardening but also to reflect on what is happening on once deserted and often toxic vacant lots in cities around the world. They are being transformed. God is taking what was broken and despised and turning it into something beautiful. At one point we stopped to contemplate the cactus that was growing up through a seemingly solid rock, a wonderful metaphor for what God is doing. No rock is too hard for God to penetrate. Nothing is too damaged for God to transform.
Metaphors are learning tools, but they are not the thing itself. How often do we, when we have learned the metaphor think we have learned the thing itself? How much more often is that true when it comes to God and His ways which we can never truly fully understand? And yet, we must struggle to get past the metaphor and to God Himself.
I am not satisfied with metaphors - are you?