by Carol Dixon
While I have been confined to the house in the recent weeks, I have thought a lot about gardens. I am a terrible gardener, yet I love visiting gardens and reading about gardens. It is wonderful that one of the earliest stories in the Bible is about a garden.
‘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. In this garden, He made the ground full of glorious life—bursting forth with nourishing food and luxuriant beauty. He created trees, and in the centre of this garden of delights stood the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river meandered through Eden to irrigate the garden, and from there it separated into four smaller rivers that flowed out from it.’
I like to imagine Adam and Eve waking and seeing the garden for the first time. What did they notice first I wonder? And when the first night came after the glory of daylight, were they afraid and thought the light had gone forever What relief and joy they must have felt when the light dawned again.
The spiritual writer Margaret Silf in her book Landscapes of Light has this to say about Gardens:
What I wonder does a garden mean for you? Summer days enjoying the scent of new-mown grass and the fragrance of flowers? Birdsong? Vegetables and herbs that travel only the distance between your kitchen garden and your table? Or maybe hard work, an aching back, an invincible army of weeds.
Would it surprise you to discover that God is to be found in the labour as well as the love, in the heart’s aching as well as in the heart’s desire? The word ‘paradise’ in its ancient Persian, Hebrew and Greek forms, originally meant ‘a sacred enclosure’. Your heart is a garden, the place you go to meet God in prayer and the place where God meets you to help you tend the sacredness you share.
What kind of garden are you in today I wonder – a garden of hope and joy, or a garden of suffering?
If it is the latter, I find that a hymn that helps me is the beautiful ‘When my love for Christ grows weak’
The poet Samuel Longfellow added an extra verse:
And I praise will firmer faith
Christ who vanquished pain and death
And to Christ enthroned above
Raise my song of selfless love.
In times of darkness, let us remember that the light will return. After our times of isolation, we will walk in the garden again. Meanwhile in our times of confinement let’s remember the warmth of the sun, the softness of the rain on our faces, the gentleness of the grass beneath our feet, the return of the dawn. And in all let us never forget the life-giving love of God that surrounds us.
Lord we have seen you walking
The garden at dewy dawning;
Lord we have heard you talking
As birdsongs greet the morning;
And Lord we have met you living
Where once we thought you dead;
And we rejoice to find yo-u
Blessing the broken bread.
Lord we have seen you caring
For those who were filled with sorrow;
Lord we have heard you sharing
Your hope for a new tomorrow;
And Lord we have felt you filling
Our lives with your love divine,
And we receive your new life
As we sha-re bread and wine.
© Carol Dixon (Tune Silent witness Handel)