Gardens are spectacular – especially those that are tended well. Brilliant reds and greens mixed with orange, periwinkle blue, canary yellow and vibrant whites can transform a plain Jane landscape to awe-inspiring and breathtaking scene. Gardens however, don’t grow into such splendor without care. Weeds need to be pulled, and soil must be fertilized so roots can grow deep. Gardens need water, nutrients, sunshine and also just the right amount of shade to thrive. When one element is off, many flowers wither and die. Yes, gardens are very complex things. The gardens of our lives are very much the same.
Yesterday, I sat in a neurosurgeon’s office listening intently as he outlined the risks of the surgery I am now scheduled to undergo on July 3rd. There is nothing about having a craniotomy that sounds pleasant. Every time I think about it, I feel sick. I dread this in so many ways. Yet I know if I don’t choose this surgery, baring a miracle, there is no hope for recovery.
Even knowing this surgery is just a small piece of the journey God has set before me, I was taken back by my feelings after the appointment was over. I felt overwhelmed and angry. Wanting a better perspective, I called several friends – none could relieve my pain. The more I talked with supportive friends, the more internally unglued I became. Each word of love and support felt like sandpaper on raw skin.
There are times when darkness looms that no one can touch the pain except my loving Heavenly Father who sees, hears, understand and believes in me.
As I prayed, an indignant cry began to pour out of my soul saying I didn’t deserve any of this. I lamented that I am so tired of our hopes and dreams being turned upside down and how I dreaded telling our kids our summer vacation has to be delayed…again. I told him my brain is messed up enough without letting a surgeon get in there to only mess it up more. On and on a I cried and wept until I was finally exhausted and my tears ran dry.
Finally, I realized the foundational flaw in my thinking. I wanted to decide what I deserved and what I didn’t. I wanted to write my life’s story when in fact it is not mine to write. I wanted the surgeon to say, with 100% confidence, he knew exactly where the problem was, how to fix it and beyond a shadow of a doubt he COULD fix it. He didn’t say that though. Instead, he talked about needing a larger incision and craniotomy than we anticipated so he could look around more and how it is difficult to know what the epi overdose did to my brain and how it has affected me. Sigh. It felt like I wanted to plant beautiful roses in my life’s garden but I was utterly dissatisfied when the Lord chose to plant some greenery instead.
Then, in the quiet, verses began to fill my mind.
Trust in the Lord and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:5-5, 7a
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! Psalm 42:5
Trusting God, in the midst of painful circumstances, shines light and pours nutrients into the gardens of our hearts. Verse after verse ran through my mind and reminded me of the loveliness of God’s amazing care. As my heart settled down, I remembered Jesus and the day he prayed in the literal Garden of Gethsemane knowing his heart would surely fail without His loving Father’s help.
37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away[a] unless I drink it, your will be done.”
When the pain is so deep and all you want to do is run away, pausing and trusting the King of kings, just like Jesus did, opens the door for refreshing water, soothing shade and destruction of weeds that kill, to be removed from our hearts. Pausing, and following the example of Jesus bring strength where we are weak and hope where we are hopeless.
When Jesus prayed, he asked for the burden ahead to be lifted (He didn’t fake it). He knew the coming hours would be beyond what he could bear alone (He understood the frailty of himself). Yet, in the end, he laid down his wishes and trusted God the Father would give him the grace to walk the journey he was called to walk – to the very end. By doing so, he set in motion a garden of grace for you and me. A garden so fragrant it draws us in times of weakness, so beautiful it illuminates our hearts and minds even when life is hard.
At this time in my life I do not yet understand why the Lord has allowed the events of the past year. Still, I know as I learn to release my expectations and press into His plans, His beauty is taking root and His fragrance becoming more evident in me.
The gardens of life can be vibrant and beautiful. They can also be filled with questions and unknowns. As we walk through the ups and downs, through the heart ache and disappointments, through the valley of the shadow of death we can be assured of one thing. When we put our trust in God in Heaven He will work the plain Jane landscape of our lives into an awe inspiring garden that reflects his grace, mercy and abounding love.
May we all learn to trust him more.