Butchart Gardens and the renewal of all things

Over the weekend my wife and I visited Butchart Gardens in British Columbia. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.

Here’s what it looked like 100 years ago…

The gardens started as a quarry on limestone-rich Vancouver Island, providing raw materials for cement production. It wasn’t long until the limestone supply was exhausted, and all that remained was a desolate patch of spent earth.

However, Jennie Butchart (the wife of the cement maker) decided to invest new life into this plot of land, using topsoil from nearby farms to create a garden out of an old quarry.

One hundred years later, this is what it looks like…

I don’t know whether Jennie Butchart considered herself a follower of Jesus. But I think what she did is exactly what Christians are called to do—literally and figuratively, physically and spiritually.

Butchart Gardens is, in a small way, a reenactment of the resurrection—bringing new life where before there was only death. Bringing renewal and vitality where there was once just a used-up piece of land. Restoring the connection between us and the rest of God’s creation.

Whether we’re talking about saving souls or saving the planet, this is a biblical idea. I like the way Rob Bell puts it in his newest book, Sex God:

We’re disconnected from the earth. And we know it. Or at least we can feel it… Many people live in air-conditioned houses and apartments. We alter our air with electric machines. We spend vast sums of money and energy to change our air. And we drive in air-conditioned cars—the 8 percent of us in the world who have cars—to air-conditioned schools and offices and stores with tile floors and fluorescent lights.

It’s even possible to go days without spending any significant time outside. And it’s still considered living. It’s easy to go for weeks and maybe even years without ever actualy plunging your hands into soil. Into earth. Into dirt.

And when we don’t plunge our hands into the earth, into God’s creation, we lose not only our connection to it… we lose our sense of wonder.

Places like Butchart Gardens are beautiful metaphors for spiritual rebirth. But they’re way more than that, too. They remind us that God of our souls is also the God of rocks and dirt. The God who celebrates when someone gives their heart to him is the same God who delights when a flower blooms.

Christians, then, should be people who see not just the present beauty of creation, but the potential for renewal and restoration where beauty has been lost—in the same way that God sees the potential for renewal and restoration in us.

Many of us need to rediscover our sense of wonder… the sense of possibility that’s captured so well by the lyrics of an Eliot Morris song:

All things are new in this colorful world
Gray is to blue in this colorful world
There’s so much to do in this colorful world
— “This Colorful World,” What’s Mine Is Yours (2006)

4 thoughts on “Butchart Gardens and the renewal of all things

  1. I kinda got shivers from this post. My friend and I just had a conversation about Eden that was very interesting. I always thought of Eden being this mysterious place where Adam and Eve communed with God.

    It may not be as mysterious as I had once believed.


  2. Elliot Morris!!!!!

    nice. someone really cool must have told you about his music. :0)

    Agree with ‘sbaar’ – I’m starting to think it’s not so mysterious.

    And, if as some scholars and pastors say, heaven is closer than we realize and is just behind the ‘veil’, then maybe the special thing about Eden was God’s presence and only God’s presence. Eden is not some physical location that has disappeared, it was here on earth. But the change is that God is now separate from us, we don’t dwell as one.

    OK, sorry, big questions, no answers, but my mind is reeling (in a great way!)


  3. That’s why I like the title of Mike Wittmer’s book, Heaven Is a Place on Earth. To the Jewish mind, “heaven” is a way of referring to wherever God’s presence can be found and his will is being done. That’s what made Eden a paradise… nothing magical about the place, but who was in it and what was happening there.

    That’s why people like Rob Bell talk about “bringing heaven to earth.” Because if we discover the things that God cares about and do them, we become the answer to the prayer, “Your will be done,” and as a result, we bring a little bit of heaven back to earth…


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