Recently, my daughter Emily has discovered one of my favourite childhood books, The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s a beautiful story about a long forgotten garden, and the lives of the characters who discover it, gradually being restored.
In the following extract, the main character, Mary, (with the help of a friendly Robin) finally gets into the the secret garden, which has been locked up for ten years.
Mary’s heart began to thump and her hands to shake a little in her delight and excitement. The robin kept singing and twittering away and tilting his head on one side, as if he were as excited as she was. What was this under her hands which was square and made of iron which her fingers found a hole in? It was the lock of the door that had been closed ten years, and she put her hand in her pocket, drew out the key, and found it fitted the keyhole. She put the key in and turned it. It took two hands to do it, but it did turn.
And then she took a long breath and looked behind her up the long walk to see if anyone was coming. No one was coming. No one ever did come, it seemed, and she took another long breath, because she could not help it, and she held back the swinging curtain of ivy and pushed back the door, which opened slowly – slowly.
Then she slipped through it, and shut it behind her, and stood with her back against it, looking about her and breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight.
She was standing inside the secret garden.The Robin Who Showed the Way, Chapter 8 – The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Place of Delight
Right at the start God placed mankind in a garden. Have you ever wondered why?
The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight, and good for food.Genesis 2:8
Whether or not you like gardening, I’m sure everyone of us would agree that spending time in a well-tended garden can have an extremely restorative effect on the soul.
From the above verse, we learn that God not only planted trees and greenery to give us nourishing food, but also as a visual feast for the eye to behold! Scientists have discovered that green is the most restful colour for the human eye to gaze upon. And God made an abundance of it! What an amazingly kind and generous Father!
Many biblical scholars talk about Eden being a place where Adam and Eve walked and talked with the Lord, in perfect intimacy and without any shame. The name Eden itself, means delight!
We all know of course, the sad story of the fall. Of how this amazing openness and trust between God and man was stolen by Satan, the father of lies.
We hear about how God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden, and placed the cherubim and the flaming sword to guard the way back to garden.
We also know, that right at the start, in midst of the garden, stood the tree of life! The good news is, that even before the foundation of the world, even before mankind sinned, Jesus, the lamb of God, was slain on the tree to restore us to right relationship with the Father!
Open the gates – The King of Glory is Coming In!
When you become a Christian and surrender your life to Jesus, it’s a bit like giving Him the keys to a locked-up garden! The King of glory comes to take up residence within us! In comes the Master Gardener to do His incredible, transformative, work in the garden of our hearts.
I have a very small garden – it’s about 55 feet long. When we moved into our house, ten years ago, it was literally a terraced lawn, flanked by two small strips of sun-baked earth. It had not plant, nor flower, nor anything remotely beautiful about it. The only thing it did have, was a ton of weeds, and a ton of potential!
My mum has always had a love for gardening – I learned from watching her over the years, that if you want to sit in a nice garden, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and get digging! And so I began…
Turning over the soil was hard graft. Removing all the stones and stubborn weeds was painstakingly laborious. The groundwork was probably 80-90 percent of the job. And it’s an ongoing task!
Ten years later, after much trial and error, weeding and digging, procrastinating and persevering, I now have a place where I can sit on a warm summer’s evening and enjoy the colour that each season brings, plus the occasional visit from a robin or a blue-tit. It is my delight. Not because it is yet perfect, but because it’s come on such a long way!
When you go and visit a beautiful garden, it’s so easy to miss the hours of work that have gone into it. What we don’t see, are the unseen hands and feet that have spent hours and hours digging and weeding and pruning and mowing. The garden, in many ways, is just the outward display. But it’s the unseen effort, that has taken place, perhaps whilst the garden was closed, probably in the early hours of the morning, when nobody was watching that has made all the difference.
Aren’t our lives a bit like this?
Much of the fruit that we display in our lives, is formed and fashioned in the secret place. It’s the times when we’re alone with Jesus, often in the early hours, when nobody is watching, when God’s handiwork is really done.
The Secret Place
“But when you pray, go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”Matthew 6:6
Today, I believe God is calling us afresh, through the rusty gate, down the path, and into the garden – to the secret place. He longs to meet with each one of us on a daily basis. To walk and talk with us in the cool of the day. Today, if you listen carefully, I believe that you might just hear Him calling you.
Will you trust me? Will you yield to Me and allow Me to have My way in your life? Will you allow Me to root out the stubborn sins that spoil and choke growth? Will you seek after me with all your heart, and spend time with Me in the secret place when nobody is watching.
I know exactly what kind of garden I want you to be. I have a unique design and plan for each one of you. I want your life to reflect My beauty and My glory. I want you to carry My fragrance and to become a place that others can come to for rest and refreshment.
Today I stand at the door and knock – will you open the door of your heart?
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