The Essential Garden
This is how we might be feeling about now.
We might be needing a place to recalibrate, a place to find our cool, and especially a place to find our strength for the tough things in life, like right now.
Right now, if I had my way and was in control of my plans, I would be in Italy. My dream trip has become my un-trip. That’s okay, because I wouldn’t want to be there right now after all.
But, I still need a place of beauty to find resilience. Instead of distancing like the COVID cat we need to draw near; are we distancing from God or drawing near?
What did Jesus do? He went to a garden.
I’ve been growing seeds during COVID to be ready to be planted in my garden soon.
See how they lean toward the sun? Reaching for that light. That’s what all of us should be doing, leaning right toward the Son.
I’m not actually talking about a veggie garden, not one full of cabbages, but rather my soul garden might be something like my idilic setting with trees and water and flowers and no people where I can think and pray and shake off my worries. Kind of like a Psalm 23 garden.
Where do you go to be with God? A cozy couch? Your bed? Your deck? The river valley? Gary and I went down to the river to a few weeks ago just to get out and we just watched the ice break and flow down the river; put my worries on an ice clump and let them float away.
A soul garden can be anywhere; in your imagination, when no garden is near, like how we live in an almost eternal snowy winter there can still be a garden in your soul.
Jesus was preparing for a major life crisis and he went to the garden first.
“[…]and they came to a place [garden] named Gethsemane.” Mark 14:32
Many images can come to mind when thinking about a garden: green, colourful, fragrant, and even tasty. There can also be thoughts of dichotomy: work and rest, waiting and harvesting, beauty and bugs, dust and daisies.
It was in the first garden, the garden of Eden, that humans began. We were made for gardens, or gardens were made for us.
It was in that first garden that the first humans both connected with God and disconnected with God. It was in the garden of Gethsemane that Jesus entered with friends and then was also betrayed by friends. For him, it was both a place of anguish and empowering, pleading and submission, peace and no peace, fear and trust.
A garden can be a contradiction of space.
Both sides are required: the work and the beauty, the terror and the courage, the fight and the surrender, or the pain and the healing.
I’ll read a bit more of Jesus’ garden experience.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus took his disciples with him, but if you notice, he went further, deeper into the garden than the disciples did.
Jesus went to the garden not after his suffering, but before; it was preparation, soul strengthening, wrestling it out with God. Not my will but yours be done: fight and surrender, hardship and beauty.
Jesus trusted his heavenly father in his suffering on the cross after he had first sorted things out in the garden. Going to the garden was his habit, his custom (Luke 22:39).
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives (garden of Gethsemane), and the disciples followed him. It was nothing new or unusual. The garden was his rendezvous point with the Holy One.
We need to draw close to God before the crisis and during the crisis too. In the garden Jesus pleaded, “let this cup pass from me”; “cup” refers to suffering, his blood. Jesus didn’t want to drink it. The father did not take the cup away from Jesus, rather, he strengthened him by sending an angel to minister to him. That was exactly what Jesus needed.
Jesus couldn’t have endured the cross without his garden. Jesus’ garden was essential to his soul.
Everyone needs a garden.
You need a garden too, it’s essential; a place to both wrestle with and surrender to God. Like Jesus, you can’t do hard stuff without your heavenly father. Are you rendezvousing with the Holy one? Meeting him in your garden?
Meeting with God could just be being still and listening for his voice; just being in his presence and soaking it in; meditating on a section of scripture, praying, talking to Jesus as if he is sitting on the couch next to you; telling him your pain points and frustrations, as well as your gratitudes.
Your soul garden. You can say as Jesus did, not my will but yours be done.
Jesus leaned right into his father, let’s be leaning toward the Son, stretching upward, taking in all of Him that we can.
In the garden of his presence is strength and joy and nourishment for the journey ahead.
You fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11
Jesus would have prayed this Psalm too. For Jesus there was the wrestling in the garden but there was also joy in his presence and many, many pleasures. Think of that, pleasures in God’s presence, his garden can be a place of delight.
Dear Lord, please meet me in the garden, or rather, help me get to the garden, for you are already there. May my wanting spirit find you there. Plant the seeds of courage in my soul so I can grow in my trust of you. Amen.
P.S. Thank you for the flowers too.
- Are you finding yourself distancing or drawing near to God?
- Where do you go to meet with God? Is there a habit you have of how you spend time with God?
- How has he strengthened you in your “meet with God” rendevous?