Being a gardener has taught me much about what it means to be a steward of creation. Every summer I plant a vegetable garden and the only real effort required of me is to place the seeds in the ground and attend to their growth with a watchfulness toward those plants that may struggle. To water them, fertilize them, prune them, and pull the weeds (remove the obstacles of growth). At the end of each summer, I am awed by what comes forth. With each garden I planted I have been provided enough vegetables to can, freeze, and dehydrate to last me all winter long and still have so much to share with others. Within this experience of abundance and blessing springs gratitude and a desire to reverence it, to not waste it, rather to respond to God’s generosity by being intentional and mindful in my usage of it. The garden has taught me that stewardship is a call to attend and cultivate the growth and well-being of creation and reverence its gifts in grateful and humble response. Stewardship is about a loving, caring relationship with creation (the earth and the environment) and the Creator.
The garden, the providence of God, has offered another profound lesson about stewardship when standing in my own backyard rejoicing in the plentiful harvest, I am made aware that within my own community there are many who go hungry, many who go without. Within this juxtaposition, is the lesson that stewardship is also about loving and caring relationship with each other; a mandate to not only care for the earth but to care for the world, especially with a watchful attentiveness toward those who are suffering, vulnerable and marginalized. To reverently respond with compassion. We cannot forget that part of the creation story is the creation of humanity – both the collective and the “quality of being”—of acting with humanity.
The third lesson I learned about stewardship draws me inward to consider other gifts I have been given – an education, a good job, experiences, family, and people to count on, financial resources, even choices– and how I use and share them. To contemplate those things and activities to which I give my time, energy, and resources and ponder on what I appreciate, attend to, cultivate, and choose in my own life and whether it moves me toward God and others, especially the poor, vulnerable and marginalized, or moves me away and distances me from God and the experience of others. In this I understand stewardship as a consciousness, a mindful way of living with eyes of appreciation and reverence, a heart of love and compassion, and faithful response toward the care, growth, and well-being of this good, beautiful, sacred world in need to which I belong.
In the large scope of things, it may be easy to think that our personal commitment to stewardship is not enough to tackle the enormous problems of poverty, hunger, and pollution. But our concentrated desire, effort, and commitment in being a steward of creation is like a seed planted out into the world that only needs to be faithfully watered, fertilized, sometimes pruned, and the weeds of fear and doubt pulled while waiting in hope for it to grow into a rich and abundant harvest.
Cindy Boland, M.A.