Beyond the Garden

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A garden offers up its secrets generously, whispering renewal in scent, color, fruit and loam. A quiet garden, when listened to carefully, teems with stems stretching, buds unfurling, roots reaching deep; a symphony of life discerned below the surface of hearing. When I walk in a garden, some primal echo of perfection and innocence resonates within me.

“The Eternal God planted a garden in the east in Eden—a place of utter delight—and placed the man whom He had sculpted there.”(Genesis 2:8 The Voice)

In the song of soughing breezes in tall aspens, Eden beckons.
Cool grass beneath bare feet marks a path to Paradise.
The very breath of Heaven sighs from sweet roses.

In a garden I begin to remember a place of utter delight. And just when that ancient memory stirs within, death overshadows. I see the weeds, smell the decay, know the serpent of sin hides beneath the leaves, waiting to deceive. In the cool of the day God walks in the garden of my soul, calling, “where are you?” Naked and ashamed, I have permitted perfection to be marred. But not beyond hope. Because there was another garden.

“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.” (John 19:41 NIV)

In the shadow of the hill on which Christ was crucified grew a garden belonging to a rich man in whose own tomb the body of Jesus was laid. From the stark, sun-baked heights of Golgotha, Jesus was brought down to the cool, clean air of a garden grove. By law He should have been given a grave with criminals outside the city. Instead He was returned to a garden, much like the place where the ancestors of those who crucified Him were created.

The kernel of his dead body was pressed into the tomb, like a single seed into dark soil. For days it laid buried. Then a supernatural germination occurred; a transformation of earthly body to glorified. Life shed the husk of death, bursting forth like a fresh green shoot. And because of the death and resurrection of this sacred Seed, many will live to know perfection in eternity.

“Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19)

In a garden, the cycle of life/death/life speaks to me of deeper truths. When the earth appears lifeless in frozen midwinter I remember the garden in summer, alive with flowers, trees and birds, and know I have been given the sure promise of new life with Christ. Someday the dead shell of my body will be laid in the ground, but my spirit will thrive forever in a place of perpetual bloom. Paradise found because of a singular Person given in perfect sacrifice.

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Dusting Angels

Willow-tree-angels-demdaco-willow-tree-angels-willow-angels-1I pick up each angel figurine and run my dusting cloth gently over their wire wings and unpainted faces. Before putting them back I study every one, my heart remembering when they were given and why. An angel embracing a child commemorates the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Holding a single rose, an angel with upswept hair speaks of my husband’s love. There are angels holding a book, a cat, a bird and a golden ball, representing different aspects of my life. Two angels have praying hands, given by recipients of my prayers. A little boy angel holds a balloon aloft which says “hope”, gifted during a cancer journey when hope was hard to come by.

Why do these angel figurines, representing significant times and people, evoke poignancy, melancholy, even sadness? I think it has to do with the way I love. I truly give my heart away to those who call up love in me. So when life inevitably changes, a piece of my heart is left behind in those circumstances. Even when those I love are still in my life, relationships change and I find myself longing for how it used to be. The fact that nothing stays as it is creates a hollowness in my soul, a restlessness stirring up yearning sighs from deep within.

Slow to remember how to respond to this vague longing, I drift through my day, not able to settle on anything useful. When I finally open a well-thumbed book beside my chair and read, the hollow places gradually fill up with precious words about One who is able to satisfy my longing for perfection and permanence.

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

These words tell me of the One who offers Himself as the perfect soul food so I will never go hungry, and the perfect spirit drink so I will never thirst. I keep reading to fill up with His promises to never leave me or forsake me, to be the same yesterday, today and forever, to prepare a place for me with Him in heaven. In these pages I find the Person who completes all my heart’s unfinished business. Jesus occupies my inner space so if there are hollows or lack, it is because I have taken my eyes off Him. I can’t afford to do that so I read on.

When I finally put my Bible down, my eye catches the upturned face of one of the little angels on the shelf. I can almost imagine her shaking her head at me for taking so long to figure how to assuage my longing. Life relationships and circumstances will always be fluid, shifting from intimacy to distance, from love to loss. I am grateful for people who have enriched my life, even for a short time, and for those who are committed to walk the rest of the way with me if they can. I’ve given them a piece of my heart which may well be trampled on or lost. I understand that. But the rest, peace and permanence found in Jesus Christ is the only completely reliable truth for my life now and forever. I hope it won’t take me until my angels are dusty again to remember where perfection lies.

Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.  – Augustine of Hippo, “The Confessions of Saint Augustine”