Gardening is difficult here in Craig. Besides the problems with deer, which eat almost everything, the soil just isn't very rich.
I grew up in rural New York, where there were plenty of old-growth woods. These are hardwood stands of trees that have not been cleared since the beginning of time. Wildflowers blanket the ground in the natural compost on the floor of these woods.
Joel knows how humbling it is to work the land and depend upon it for survival. It's difficult for us who purchase our food from a supermarket to have any sense of how fragile the plants and animals that supply our food are. We often consider ourselves above nature and not part of it, but God sees things differently. "Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice, for the LORD has done great things! Do not fear, you animals of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and vine give their full yield."
We humans are God's stewards. We have been created in the image of God and understand how to protect creation. Understanding something and doing it are two different things. When we grasp all that must be done to preserve creation for future generations, it can overwhelm us. We may think that the Bible has little to say about what it means to confront global warming. Joel speaks to people like us - people weary of environmental problems, people sometimes overwhelmed by them. Joel refers to past environmental disasters: "years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter."
These poor people have been waging a war on bugs that feels hopeless. Sometimes when I start my car, it confounds me that this act helps change the climate in scary ways. World leaders are skeptical about climate change, and their reluctance to solve it makes me feel the way Joel must have felt in the face of those bugs - angry and helpless because something as small as a grasshopper or a single gas engine, multiplied by millions, can cause such destruction.
This feeling of being overwhelmed and helpless is exactly what God needs us to let go of.
"O children of Zion, be glad and rejoice in the LORD your God; for God has given the early rain for your vindication, God has poured down for you abundant rain. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter: You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you."
God is able to make works of saving justice happen. It does not matter whether the instrument of God's justice is an early rain, or we as a people who organize energy audits of the homes and buildings in our community in order to conserve more natural resources. There are so many ways we can be a part of the solution.
When I think of gardening, I think back on those woods of my childhood. God has a natural system for enriching the soil, the leaves that have fallen off those trees for thousands of years have been composting and feeding the trees and beautiful flowers.
So, when the leaves fall off the trees in my yard, I rake them off the sidewalks and onto the yard so that I can mow over them and make compost. I also cover our gardens with the leaves to keep them warm. Then, in the summer, I turn the wet leaves into my garden, where they naturally are composted. I trust God to take care of it from there.