Are You an Innie or an Outie? (part 1)

– Andy Wade –

prep.9Unlike bellybuttons, whether your garden is an innie or an outie actually does say something about you. For most of my life my garden was an innie. Only recently have I begun to explore and appreciate the outtie perspective. This really isn’t about whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it’s really more about intentionally exploring what it means to live gratefully in relationship to the world around us.

If you’ve been following my Lenten garden posts you’ll have an idea what I’m talking about. If not, you my respond like my son, “You’re weird”, or my wife, “That’s just creepy!” But let me explain. An innie is a yard that is designed primarily for the purposes and enjoyment of those living on that property. Focused inward, we plant fruits and vegetables for our personal consumption, we plant trees for the pretty flowers, fragrance, and shade they provide, and we design it all around what we need or desire out of “my property”.

And outie likely incorporates many of these same things, but also keeps in mind friends and neighbors when planning and planting. In my last post I tackled some of the questions I asked as my wife and I worked to transform our front yard from an innie to an outie yard. Digging into the differences between the two, however, I’m realizing that it’s not an “either/or” choice. Unlike bellybuttons, in the garden it’s possible, even preferable, to be both an innie and and outie.

Discovering Balance

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’” Mark 1: 32-37

In life, Jesus was both an innie and an outie. Balance was key as he lived a very public life but also took time to be alone, away from it all, where he could listen, pray, reflect, and be renewed. Our backyard is a kind of inner sanctuary where I can find solitude and rest. Our front yard is becoming a place to connect more meaningfully with the community in which I live. But even that distinction is too extreme. I think when we compartmentalize Jesus’ inner and outer life in such a way we severely distort the example he set for us.

The Blended Life

The reality is that when I go into my inner sanctuary I carry with me the joys and concerns encountered in the world around me. I am not cut off from them but actually become more aware of their impact on my life and my interconnectedness with all that buzzes in and around my world. This should not surprise me. When I plunge my hands into the earth I’m reminded of my connectedness to all creation. God formed me from the richness of the soil and breathed life into me. Like all creation, I am alive and sustained only by the grace of God.

Norman Wirzba, in his book Food & Faith: A Theology of Eating, speaks eloquently about the interconnectedness of all creation. God’s whole system of creation is based on sacrifice and interdependence – for something to live, something else must sacrifice and die. The entire web of life created by God is sacrificial at its core. So even when I’m alone in my backyard I am not truly alone. This is not a place of escape but of understanding more deeply my part in this web of life. This is a place where God cultivates my heart and prunes my mind so that I may bear good fruit to share with the world around me.

Listen to Christine Sine’s version of this inner/outer theme as she shares about being a contemplaive-activist

Likewise, when I venture into the front yard, or into the larger community, I carry with me the still small voice of God (and some fresh cuts from the pruning) experienced in the sanctuary. If I have listened and learned well, the community is where I put these lessons into practice. If, instead, I keep my life segregated into private/spiritual and public/secular I will simply reap a harvest of hypocrisy.


Look for part two on Wednesday when I’ll explore the connection between Eucharist/Communion, the garden, and community.  


Related Garden/Food Posts from Andy