Monday, October 19, 2009

I Come to the Garden Alone - Part One

I Come to the Garden Alone
Part One
By Judy Vandiver

I have a beautiful patio and garden area where I enjoy morning devotions. The garden is peaceful and when there, I can feel God’s closeness. I’m reminded of my maternal grandmother’s favorite song, I Come to the Garden Alone.

But I haven’t always had a beautiful garden. I used to come to the garden alone because I don't want anyone to see the desolate spot in my yard. I thought of putting up a sign that said, "Stop! Do not enter! Go away!" In fact, most of my life, my gardening attempts have ended in frustration and failure. Over the next few days, I would like to share with you some of my gardening mishaps and what God taught me. In the garden, God walks with me and talks with me. I know I am His.

When it comes to gardening, I am known for my black thumb. My family loves to tell stories on each other. When they want to have a good laugh on me, they tell of my gardening attempts. Just get anyone of them going and they will soon be laughing so hard that you won't be able to hear what they are saying. Even I have to laugh when I reflect on some of my futile attempts at tilling God's earth.  

All my life, I have marveled at the miracle of growing things. I have heard countless object lessons on the glorious miracle of how God transforms tiny seeds into mighty and beautiful plants. My grandmother used to tell me how God spoke to her in her garden. "I draw spiritual strength," she said, "from the time I spend with God in nature. I come away feeling refreshed and renewed in my soul. It is in my garden," she continued, "where I feel blessed by God."

I want to receive blessings like that. But alas… I couldn’t grow anything. Therefore, I assumed that there were no lessons from God that I could learn in my garden. I wasn't even sure God wanted to spend time in my garden. Perhaps, like my family, he was having a good laugh. 

Now, I know many of you may say you don’t have a green thumb, but some of my greatest blunders have been with plants. As I have reflected on some of these blunders, I have begun to find spiritual insight and blessings. God has shown me that he has many valuable lessons for me—even in my failed gardening attempts.

The first recollection I have of trying to be a gardener was when I was about 5 or 6 years old. My mom and Dad were great gardeners. Dad had many gardens that produced mega amounts of super vegetables. Mom has always had great houseplants and flowerbeds. I remember Mother having a gorgeous gardenia bush in our yard. I thought those flowers smelled wonderful.

One day when I went with Mom to the store, she bought flower seeds. I asked her if I, too, could have some seeds and plant my own flowerbed. I was delighted when she said yes. 

When we got home, Mom and I went into the back yard. She marked off a small portion of her flowerbed. "This is your section of the flower garden," Mom said. "You'll have to work the soil before you plant your seeds. You must prepare the soil to receive the seed."

I watched attentively as Mom prepared her soil. This looked easy. In fact, it looked a lot like when my sisters and I would play and dig in the back yard. “Nothing to it,” I thought. I was soon working the ground as I had seen Mom do, breaking up the soil, which I called dirt, then I prepared to plant my seeds. 

I was so excited. The lady next door, Mrs. Hodges, was outside. I don’t ever remember any other time that I talked with her, but I recall that I called to her to come and see what I was doing. "Look at my garden," I said. "I'm planting seeds. They are going to grow and become flowers like Mom's. They are going to be so beautiful. They are mine and I'm going to do it all by myself."

As I continued to chatter away, Mrs. Hodges just smiled, nodded, and went back into the house. She wasn’t nearly as excited as I was. 

I couldn’t wait for my flowers to sprout. Mom explained, however, that now came the hard part—the waiting. "The waiting is necessary," she explained, “and even though you can't see them, something wonderful and mysterious is happening to your seeds. They are preparing to become blossoms."

Blossoms! What a glorious thought. “I'm going to have blossoms.”

Every day I checked to see if my little blossoms were ready to make an appearance. I would look at the picture of the flowers on the now empty seed packet. “Would my blossoms be as gorgeous as the photo? Would they smell as fragrant as Mom’s gardenias?”

I continued to wait as mother had instructed, although not very patiently. Finally, one day as I entered the back yard I saw some green sprouts coming up. But they weren’t in my section of the flowerbed. They were in Mom’s section. Soon all of Mom’s flowers had sprouted. They were growing into sturdy healthy little blossoms. My section still had dirt.

I didn’t understand it. Neither could Mom. "Tell me what you did," mother instructed. 

"I did just what you had did, Mom," I said. "I took out all the weeds in my section. I worked the soil. I put my seeds in the earth and I covered them up with dirt. I watered them and besides that," I added, "I have waited just like you said I had to."

Mrs. Hodges was in her yard and overheard my mother and me talking. She came to the fence. "I watched Judy plant those flowers,” she said, “and she did just what she said, but those flowers are never coming up."

My mom and I both looked on as she continued. "I think she must have buried those poor little seeds about six foot under. She dug a very deep hole, threw in the seeds, and filled the hole up. She was so excited that I didn't have the heart to tell her they were never going to bloom. She buried them too deep."

As an adult I began to reflect on this, the beginning of my gardening “Ok, God,” I asked, “what is the spiritual lesson and insight in this incident? Where is my blessing?"

I was sure that God would shake his head on this one. But he didn't.

As I thought about my little blossoms that never were, God began to write the following message on my heart. I can ask God for the desires of my heart. And even when he gives them, I can keep very busy doing what looks like all the right things. I can share with others and tell them about my joy and excitement. I can wait. I can hope. I can dream. But, I mustn’t forget to do one very important thing. I need to read God's directions. 

With my flower seeds, I had been so busy studying the picture on the front of the package, that I forgot to turn it over. I had never read the back of the package. I'm not sure at that age that I even could read. But, today, when I look at the back of a seed package it usually says, place seeds in the ground and cover with 3 to 4 INCHES of soil. Not feet—but inches.

Have you ever been so busy doing for God; doing what you think He wants that you forget to consult Him? I have. He has given us very detailed directions for life. And in those directions, he cautions us when in 1 Sam 15:22, he says, "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”

I had sacrificed my time and my desires, and unfortunately, I had even sacrificed my seeds, all because I had not read the directions. I sensed God pressing upon me a basic spiritual truth; we need to read his directions. We need to spend time in the Word. But wait, God shared something else with me. In James 1:22 God says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says!"

Oh, the difference my little corner of the flowerbed could have experienced if I had read and followed the directions. Oh, the blossoms that could have been mine. Oh, the difference my little corner of this world can experience if I read and follow God’s word. Oh, the blossoms and blessings that are mine to enjoy. I come to my Garden alone, and even when my seeds don’t sprout, God meets me there. 

Tomorrow, I will share with you another strategy I once had for creating a flower garden and what God taught me through my futile attempts.

Personal Study Questions
  1. What seeds of faith have I hidden from the “son” light of God?
  2. How would I compare my time spent reading God’s word? Is my bible reading time, dead, wilted, like a single wild flower, or a beautiful bouquet of blossoms?
  3. Do I consistently strive to put into practice what I learn from God’s word?
  4. Name one thing God tell us in his directions that I am not currently obeying.
  5. Read and memorize Isaiah 35 1-2a: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing.” (KJV)

Copyright 2002 Judy Vandiver

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