In the Garden
Sometimes the brokenness of the world is so overwhelming. My heart breaks when I pick up the papers or watch the news to see that yet another bomb has exploded. Why we ask, but get no answers to the random violence that is occurring… senseless injuries and death! Hello God, are you there? I’m knocking on your door as I pray fervently for our world, clashing governments, culture and religious wars and all measures of fear and suffering. Why is this all happening, Lord, and when will it end?
Recently, with all that’s been going on, and after suffering a personal loss, I’ve been thinking about the cycle of life.
I have a wonderful bird feeder with several feeding stations in my back yard. I love watching the birds, insects and other creatures in my garden. It’s where I meet often with my Lord. The birds have come to trust me. When the food is low and I’m heading out to fill the feeders, they sit on the wires above and chirp at me. I talk back to them, telling them to be patient. Sometimes I sing to them so they hear my song. They don’t understand me, but they know I’m getting their food, which may even include an unexpected special treat. I love to sit and watch the hierarchy of power at the peanut feeders, with the larger woodpeckers coming out on top of the fussy bickering blue jays. I have another feeder that has a cage to keep the big birds out so the little ones can get food, too. It’s always busy and fun at the bird feeding stations!
But last week, in the midst of perfect garden peace, it was like a scene from Jaws in my back yard. The feeders they had come to trust led to slaughter as a large red shouldered hawk descended upon an innocent sparrow, decapitating it before the little bird had time to get away. The next evening, the hawk returned and waited on my fence. But the birds were wiser now, and nowhere to be found; they had abandoned the feeders.
The hawk was beautiful and powerful. Even while I feared for the little birds, I was captivated by the beauty of this bird with its 3 ½ foot wingspan. I had to remind myself this was the circle of life as God had planned our world. The hawk sat confidently for quite a long time on the fence, changing locations at times to get a different perspective. It was not bothered a bit by my presence on the patio; I was no threat. The hawk had one goal… to eat. After a bit, the hawk left our yard, but managed to snatch another bird out of midair over my neighbor’s yard before leaving the area.
The next day, my usual menagerie of birds returned and you’d never know the hawk was ever there. As I thought about the cycle of life, I was reminded that just as God watches over the sparrow, God watches over me. I’m also reminded that the garden is my place to visit but not to live.
In my garden, I think of other gardens in the Bible – Eden, where paradise was lost, Gethsemane, where Jesus was sorrowful and troubled, and where Jesus asked “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then there’s the Garden Tomb where Jesus was buried and resurrected. I’d like to stay in a safe place with you, Lord, safe in a “garden cocoon” where all my needs are taken care of and where I will not be bothered by the world and all its problems, but I cannot. Even in Eden, evil was present; and I am reminded there is no safe place, but I’m also reminded that no matter what we do, you continue to love us. In our greatest sorrows and joys you are there, because your love knows no bounds. The
Garden Tomb was your ultimate gift where you gave us true lasting and inner peace and spiritual salvation over darkness, conflict, hate, jealousy, greed, sin and death.
When I’m in my garden I am reminded of an old hymn, “I Come to the Garden.” I love the story that inspired it. Here is the account of how this beautiful hymn was written, from the hymn-writer C. Austin Miles himself:
“One day in April, 1912, I was seated in the dark room, where I kept my photographic equipment and organ. I drew my Bible toward me; it opened at my favorite chapter, John 20 – whether by chance or inspiration let each reader decide. That meeting of Jesus and Mary had lost none of its power and charm.
As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary's life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, Rabboni!
My hands were resting on the Bible while I stared at the fight blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white, with head bowed, hand clasping her throat, as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in, and hurried away.
John, in flowing robe, appeared, looking at the tomb; then came Peter, who entered the tomb, followed slowly by John.
As they departed, Mary reappeared; leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb, she wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing, so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched and looking into His face cried, Rabboni!
I awakened in sunlight, gripping the Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating. Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music.”
In the Garden
(1)I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear,
Falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
(2) He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody
That He have to me
Within my heart is ringing.
(3) I'd stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go;
Through the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
Author Susan Fair is a decades-long member of NorthPark Presbyterian who finds her greatest joy in the service of others and in the company of family and friends, both new and old.