This gardening paradigm has itself stuck in my gray matter today. It keeps showing itself to be an incredibly valuable way to understand several parts of the Christian life.
Life began in a garden with God; it will end, for those in Christ, in a far more glorious garden. In the meantime, we are apprentices to the Master Gardener, working and tilling the soil of this world, striving to approximate a little of that garden that was and shall be.
Part of such gardening is tilling the soil of our soul, walking the long, joyful highway of obedience. Christians are called to be faithful and obedient people, constantly dying to self, conforming our lives to the truths of Scripture. Along these lines, the two gardens give us our ideal.
In speaking and thinking of obedience, there is a great temptation to hold as our standard or ideal something other than Garden Life. Often we find our hearts comparing ourselves to others around us - "Praise God I'm not as bad as him or her." Or (perhaps more insidious), "This is obedience! I'm so far from where I used to be." An illustration: Last Friday I filled up the car with $2.62/gallon gas; yesterday, I got it for $2.63. And, to be honest, I was fairly pleased with myself on both accounts, because the going rate around here is still $2.79ish. What a sad state of affairs, being happy with paying $2.62 for gas...but as we say, it's all relative. Clearly the human heart has the power relativize both gas purchases and morality in the same manner.
While rejoicing always in our growth in grace, we must never hold other men or women as our standard. Our standard for obedience is Life in the Garden - this is why we pray, "Thy will be done, as earth as it is in heaven." Not, "as it is at my neighbor's house" or "as it was in the '50's" or "as it was before that blasted Industrial Revolution." In heaven; our ideal is the Garden.
This means that we, as apprentice gardeners, must maintain such a vision of the Garden to come that we also maintain a holy dissatisfaction with our garden. Do praise God for growth in grace; but never be satisfied. Never rest on laurels (yours or anyone else's). Never stop asking God for more grace, more weeding of your heart.
Coincidentally, this is why I often hesitate to call myself a conservative. Were you to know everything I believed about this and that, you might certainly label me a political conservative. But there's an inherent problem in the ideology of conservatism: it's far too easily satisfied.
From my view, conservatism looks only to conserve, rather than to plant and weed and grow and harvest. Politically, conservatism would be happy if it managed to move our country back a few decades in its moral decline. But just as personal obedience must hold a Heavenly standard, a nation's righteousness must never be measured against the past (whether its past is somewhat godly or not). A nation's righteousness - a nation's garden - must be modeled on the Garden. No other standard can or will suffice.