Grow Good Soil

Years ago I made an unexpected recovery after many years of a disabling illness called ME. It began with powerful prayer for healing but like the rest of life, it wasn’t quite as simple as that.

At the time, I was using a disability scooter for the times that there was nobody about to push my wheelchair. The scooter opened up my life in exciting ways; independence is a truly wonderful thing. I took over a small vegetable plot in a local community garden and the Council kindly raised the soil level so I wouldn’t go head first into the carrots. I spent time enjoyably pottering about, weeding, watering and admiring my plants, even before the time came to pick and eat fresh tasty produce.

I had been mostly housebound for ten years when I got the plot and I was surprised by how powerfully right and important it felt to reconnect with the great outdoors. Weather, seasons and green things growing were all part of my healing that summer. I felt a bit sheepish about this; wasn’t it all a bit hippie? But of course when you start to look, the Bible is stuffed full of references to weather, seasons and green things growing. There is nothing unChristian about finding sustenance in our God-given natural environment.

In parts of Asia they have this sussed. They take veterans with PTSD and overstretched business people out of the city into therapeutic forests and other beautiful places. Healing, according to scientific research, comes when we seek out green pastures and still waters.

Back at the plot, I spent time building rich and well-structured soil for my plants. Organic principles (yes, hippie stuff again) teach that to grow good food you need first to grow good soil. So I went to Starbucks for used coffee grounds and raided my husband’s famous compost heap. Why is it that compost is a man thing? Anyway, I was pleased to discover that well rotted

rubbish turns magically into rocket fuel for soil. In the light of this, I sometimes write down all the things that are rubbish in my life and my world and invite God to make life-giving compost out of them. It takes time in the dark for this to happen properly and like other aspects of garden life, there’s no rushing it. You have to leave it be and trust the process.

So once I had good soil, the weeds expressed their appreciation by popping up everywhere. I spent a lot of time pulling them out at the ‘two leaves and a stem’ stage, when they look cute and come out easily. Turn your back for a week or two and those cuties have developed tough roots. Ignore them for a season and the seeds blow everywhere. As I was working through inner healing as well as outer healing, I took advantage of this necessity to address the lies rooted in my head. I imagined the lies as weeds and as I pulled out the weeds I could see, I challenged the lies I could not see. And I tried to plant good seeds in my mind and my veg plot, once the weeds were gone.

One day I discovered horsetail in my plot. Panic stations; that stuff is evil. I discovered that the only way to stop it overrunning the whole plot was to get out the whole plant, including every scrap of the roots. So I settled in to dig out the tip of the long taproot. I had good plants growing nearby, so I dug carefully by hand. Presently I was lying across the side of the raised bed, elbow deep in gritty soil with bleeding fingertips, determined to beat the root I was chasing. I sensed God saying gently, ‘Emily, how far will you go to get rid of the lies rooted deep in your mind?’ I got rid of the horsetail that day and it has never returned. I am still working on some of those lies.

The garden for me is a thin place, a place where God is close. It’s my green pasture, a place the Shepherd gave me for my nourishment and refreshment. It’s easy to forget to spend time in green pastures in the bustle of city life but it never fails to slow me down and reset my overworked brain.

Emily Ackerman
Emily’s book, ‘The Amazing Technicoloured Pyjama Therapy’ is available from