I’m a vegetable gardener. I come by it honestly. I learned the craft of growing vegetables from my grandfather who was a master gardener. I love the entire growing season from cultivating and planting to harvest and finally to cleaning out the land to prepare for the next growing season.
The problem for me is that for the past decade I have been unable to garden. The places we have lived were wooded and hilly. Gardening on the hills can be overcome with some extra work, but it’s pretty hard to get tomatoes and beans to grow and produce with no sun. So, for ten years I have done without one of the great joys of my life. Yes, I have planted a few tomato plants in pots and tried a few other things, but it just wasn’t quite the same. My gardens have tended to be on the large end of the scale.
For a year now we have lived in the country on an acre of land, and for the first time in ten long years I once again have a vegetable garden; and it is my therapy. A couple of weeks ago I was out staking my tomatoes on a very hot day. They should have been staked earlier, but my schedule didn’t seem to permit it. As I crouched down next to my tomato plants tying each one to a stake, sweating in the heat, and breathing in the unique smell of tomato plants, I thought to myself, “Gosh! Have I missed this!” Gardening is my therapy.
The word therapy comes from the Greek word therapeía (θεραπεία). The verb form therapeuo (θεραπεύω) is used forty-eight times in the New Testament, most often translated in English “to heal.” Therapeía carries with it the notion of restoration… of re-creation. It is a cure for what ails. It is also important to note that the Latin word that translates therapeía is quite often the word cura— “cure” in English.
All of us need therapy because all of us need to be restored. It should not be missed that in Genesis the Sabbath– a time for rest and re-creation– is built right into creation itself. Therapy comes in many forms–gardening, golf, camping, fishing, reading, woodworking, painting, exercise, and many other things we enjoy that remind us life does not consist solely in work and in what we produce. It is absolutely essential that human beings, in the words of Stanley Hauerwas, take time for the trivial, which is much different than trifling away the time given us. Because so much of our time is engaged in the important responsibilities we have to fulfill, we need time away from those responsibilities in order to re-create. Without those trivial moments we will find ourselves less able to complete the regular duties given to us.
So, what’s your therapy? What re-creates you for the next season of responsibility? What is it that takes you away from your work so that your work can be even more fulfilling? If you do not have a therapy, please make time for one.
It can be quite healing for your body and spirit.