This is is the last post in the mini-series of “A Feminine Masculine,” which has been reflections on gender and theology. This last post is the final reflection about how I live out my thesis: “In light of my personal experience, I want to break down the strongholds gender has placed on theology and open the floodgates to the experience of God in light of and regardless of gender.”
Last week I talked about the example of the beloved disciple challenging the identity of the über-masculine male. This week, we will talk about…gardening.
As many of you know, I am a green thumb. What’s funny about it is that I’ve always known I had a green thumb, but I never had an opportunity to exercise it. My parent’s backyard was very shady, and so only hostas and other shade loving plants could grow there…no vegetables or stuff like that.
However, after moving into Minneapolis and into a community house, I finally had the opportunity to garden, and Lord have mercy did I ever! Once the harvest was all over, I had 150+ tomatoes and several eggplants and peppers, along with chives, sage, and tarragon. Here’s a picture!
This year, I am planning on tripling the size of the garden! But you may be wondering: why all this talk about gardening, then? Well, glad you asked, because it has to do with the spiritual experiences and reflections I had while gardening, and I believe they are very applicable to our current discussion.
Over the summer of gardening I was wrestling a lot with my thoughts about gender discussions and identity in Christianity, especially with other men (for the record, if you think you are one of these people, you most likely are not. The kind of men I’m talking about probably wouldn’t read my blog!)
I had realized a strange cult of machismo around some men, where their identity of being a man was rooted in their strength, their prowess, and their ability to fight. However, in all of this, I saw another disturbing trend: men would proclaim this machismo, but in their spiritual life and practices, they lived out a defeatist lifestyle (I am a worm, I am nothing, I am a sinner, etc). Curiouser and curiouser….
So while gardening I had excellent times of reflection, meditation, and talking with God. I would come to God with my questions while I tended my vegetables and flowers, and in the garden I discovered a “mantra” or a transformative statement: “boys destroy, men create.”
I realized that this cult of machismo created a cult of destruction. In their idealized manliness, men would see themselves as unstoppable, or at least untouchable, and so had no care to how their actions affected others or the world. They were ivory towers, they were Don Drapers. However, at the same time they had developed a defeatist cult in their theology. Their God was as angry and machismo as they were, and they knew that they could not please God. Yet, this God was worthy of their worship and praise. Curiouser and curiouser…
But what does gardening bring to this story? Looking back to the Genesis narrative, what was Adam’s first responsibility? To take care of the Garden. Adam was to tend God’s creation, but also partake in it. In gardening, we join in God and God’s creation to become co-creators. In gardening, we get to see how God has and continues to work in the world and in us, and we feel the creative and creational power of God move through us. We live in the life of the vegetation, and we grow with their growth. We create, we do not destroy. We mend, we do not mutilate. We give life, we do not take it away.
Maybe this whole “giving life” thing or growth theme is the reason why gardening has been seen as a feminine exercise. Sure, it does reflect the feminine motif of birth, but that does not mean it’s solely feminine. As we see in the Genesis narrative, the man Adam was also called to create, to birth, to nurture, and to sustain.
We all participate in the current creation of God and in the new creation to come. There is no exclusion based on gender, race, ethnicity, or whatever separates us from one another. Let us all join in with God in God’s creation as we wait in expectancy for the new creation.