“All too quickly, the message is crowded out by the worries of life.”
There’s a sacred and hallowed retreat,
Where my soul finds a fellowship sweet,
Where the Lord of my life I may meet,
In the garden of my heart.
Haldor Lillenas, “The Garden of my Heart”
My father came from a time and place where having food to eat was not a given, but rather a daily struggle… this was the result of being placed into an orphanage from an early age until he was 18, when he aged out and was on his own. During that time, he witnessed first-hand food entering the orphanage, but never making it to the children and those who needed it most. As a result, my father always had a garden… it was his way of providing a means of feeding his family, regardless of circumstances around him. Even though the conditions were different, my father carried with him bad memories of a time he never wanted us to ever experience.
My father tended to his garden in ways I never understood when I was younger. He’d tell me how important it was to diligently weed the garden, because left unattended, the weeds would take over the garden and compete for the vital nutrients and water intended for the vegetables. My father understood the connection between feeding the good plants and working to guard the garden against ‘invaders’… he wanted to maximize his yield!
Dad was out in his garden every night… it seemed to provide him a sense of peace… a means of realigning himself… away from the craziness of the world. He believed that gardens represent life and sanctuary. We escape to them for recreation, relaxation, peace, sustenance, and beauty.. We breathe easier among the plants, which in God’s exquisite design, give us the oxygen we need to thrive.
Gardens also play important vital roles in the Bible. A garden served as home to the first human’s. Jesus spoke of vineyards, planting, growing, and harvesting. He also spoke about weeds, one of a garden’s greatest enemies.
Just as weeds suffocate and choke out a garden’s healthy plants, the weeds of our lives choke out God’s sustenance. If a garden represents our heart, then we are wise to guard against invaders. To do so, we must learn to recognize the weeds that masquerade as flowers, because even weeds can appear beautiful as they carry out their hostile takeover.
We could spend all day listing issues that crowd God from our hearts… work obligations, friend and family responsibilities, financial stresses, ministry commitments, health concerns, social issues, national tragedies, global unrest. Most of these hold validity for pressing on our time and our nerves… after all, we can’t neglect our responsibilities or live in a bubble.
However, we can guard our hearts from becoming crippled beneath our burdens by asking God to strengthen our spiritual muscles to pump more vitality into our hearts. By deepening our roots in God, we become more efficient at weathering the effects of weeds that crop up in our lives. We can continue to grow in godliness that helps us to care for others, gives us wisdom for decision making and prioritizing, and provides perspective in confusing circumstances.
God is our spiritual oxygen to keep our heart’s garden flourishing despite weeds that threaten to crowd His life in us. Every moment we spend with God acts as a spiritual ‘weed killer’ to our cares. Linger with Him… get to know Him better, and watch Him beautify the garden of our heart.
Father… You desire us to always come to You as we are… no matter the hurt, the pain, or the offense… but Father, we are tired from being torn down. Father, as Gardener of our hearts, You know what helps us to grow and what threatens our spiritual vitality. Please help us thrive as we deepen our roots in Your Word… Amen!
Greg Stefanelli (gstefanelli)