“I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing….”
I love that song. And how about this one:
“I am weak, but Thou art strong; Jesus, keep me from all wrong; I’ll be satisfied as long as I walk, let me walk close to Thee. Just a closer walk with Thee, grant it, Jesus, is my plea,Daily walking close to Thee,let it be, dear Lord, let it be.Through this world of toil and snares,If I falter, Lord, who cares?Who with me my burden shares?None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.”
These songs bring back wonderful memories of my childhood. I knew that God was always with me, even then. And it gave me a constant calm assurance.
What I didn’t know in childhood…or during what most people would classify as an angst-free adolescence…is that Life is not a walk in the Garden. Sure…”Walking” can be a metaphor for being near through prayer and through reading scripture and through being aware of God’s presence in every place that we go during our day and in each word that we say and with each interaction with another and in the small and large choices that we make.
But for me, walking with God is a literal – not a symbolic exercise (literally an exercise …yes, actually walking). I want God with me and need God with me and that is why I pray and read scripture and talk to God throughout the day and try to let God love others through me when I may not feel very loving in my own strength.
But the place where I find God most intensely and “actively” is when I am taking a long, brisk walk.
That hasn’t been happening very much lately… and my scale and my soul are telling me plainly that I NEED to begin again! But this is a typical summer phenomenon. I don’t like Southern Summers. I don’t like heat and humidity. And as a Southern girl, I have struggled with this reality my whole life. Basically, for me, summers are for hibernating. If I am not in a cool lake…then I am in a cool building. And if I am inside then I am likely eating or sleeping. See, I am an outdoors girl. If I can’t be outside then everything gets a little “Wonky”. I love the Autumn best of all. In the Autumn it feel like all is right with the world. When the air becomes brisk and the colors on the trees start to change my heart, soul and body give a giant sigh…a fist pump…a jump …a twirl…a face lifted smile…a “THANK (You) GOD! It is about time!”
My attitude and energy begins a new season. And everyone around me can give a giant sigh…and…a “THANK (You) GOD! Finally! Welcome back, Christy!”
And in the Autumn I walk again. And I talk and I raise my hands and I say “Thank You Thank You Thank You!”
Yes, in the Summer I say, “Thank You!” But not often enough. Can it EVER be often enough?
In my summer wanna-sleep and be left alone stupor, I had a revelation. I was feeling extremely exhausted and there was a slight but chronic dissatisfaction with everything and nothing. The lesson that came to me in that state of “bluh” a few days ago was: Life here on earth is HARD. It is not a walk in the garden. It is not a stroll in the park.
If you have Faith in God’s Sovereignty then you know that He has it all under control…. and He will work out all things even if all things seem overwhelming and too terrible to ever be fixed…He will do it.
If we let Him. But that is the key. There is no other option. It is an all or nothing proposition. Not a 50/50… 40/60… 90/10…99/1. We have to let Him do what He needs to do to for us and in us and around us.
When we believe that He is the Creator of ALL good things then we will also understand that nothing that we have done is too large a mess for Him to clear up or clean up. He can easily pick up all of our pieces and He can create a masterpiece from the shattered or crumbled or broken or torn apart or what we consider to be ruins. And then, taking our brokenness, He can and will build a new creation of us. And there will be added parts that weren’t there before. Things like Wisdom…and Strength…and Awe…and Thankfulness… And Humility…And a Knowledge that we are weak and we will continue to make messes unless we also continuously ask God to lead, guide, rule, speak, show us daily what to do, how to do it, where to go…
God cares for us…not in the way that we care about the plight of Polar Bears losing their habitat or Meth addicts or orphans in lonely baby cribs half-way across the world…He cares for us as His lost…His orphans. He wants nothing more than to save each of us from a life of fear, loneliness… He wants to show what real, deep connection looks like and feels like and how it can bring meaning, purpose and healing to us. No matter what kind of sorry childhood or family life we may have experienced, we are not prisoners to the sins of our fathers (or mothers or spouses or wayward children).
We are more than the flesh and blood family that we were born into. God has adopted us. And He has unlimited Time for us – all the time in the Universe. He can take us to a peace that passes all understanding…to a place where we can sit on His knee and be wrapped up in His arms and talk to Him about anything and everything because He knows all about it anyway and He just wants to hear our “take” on it! And if we listen closely, the Holy Spirit will reveal things to us…and if we read God’s Word, we will understand what God has done and will continue to do for us, His people.
God could have stopped His original Creation and just made beauty without a higher purpose than to exist and be beautiful. But He wanted more. He wanted relationships. He wanted to spread his Light to people who saw it as Light and He wanted to spread His love to people who could FEEL it and understand that it was the ultimate power.
God wants a personal relationship with us. Because He loves us. And He cares that we love Him! It actually matters to Him! And it hurts Him, just as it would hurt us, to be rejected by a friend or a family member or a lover. He cares. He cares for us. Like the BEST WIFE cares for her husband….Like the BEST husband cares for his wife. Like the BEST parent in the Universe cares for their VERY OWN child. Because we are His own! Romans 8:17 says, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
We will be with Him in glory…but right now we are here. And it is often a place of suffering.
“HERE” is not a walk in the garden. It is an exhausting, sometimes excruciating, seemingly endless obstacle course.
If we do not believe that God is Sovereign then we have to manage every twist turn…every balancing act…every push, pull, lift…every juke and jive…we have to duck and dodge…and keep going day after day after day after day. No break. No peace. No hope. No meaning. No guarantees.
We are alone. On our own. Our success or failure is all up to us. We have no direction past wants and wishes and the next day and the next pay check and the next weekend and the next holiday and the next vacation and one day…if we live to see it, retirement.
What kind of Life is that? It sounds like Hell on Earth to me. Definitely NOT the life we are meant to have. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
And Isaiah 55: 1-3 says, ““Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.”
And Isaiah 55: 6-12″Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”
God’s plan for us is to be bigger than ourselves. But the only way to do this right is to make ourselves “smaller” and less important and to make Him working in us more important
I live in this world too. My life is a crazy obstacle course too…and sometimes I get exhausted and sometimes it seems to be too much for me to bear. And then I remember that I am not alone. I keep going every day…but I know that I am not on a hamster wheel. I am running this race with perseverance. I have hope and a purpose and a future…and if I fall I have a safety net. I may fall down….I may stay down for a while. But I will get back up again. And be thankful.
I am thankful that life is an adventure. Join me and let’s embrace the challenges of our life with the certainty that if God’s strength is involved…if the Holy Spirit’s promptings are heeded…and Jesus’s example is followed… then LIFE, whether it is a walk in the garden or an exhausting challenge, will be filled with meaning. It may not always be fun, happy, joyful, painless, peaceful…but it will be the life that we were meant for…learning the lessons that we were meant to learn …to be able to be sympathetic and empathetic to the hardships and challenges and others. We can be God’s Hands and Feet….and knee and arms to a world that needs to be heard, understood, held close…and loved. We can do that for others because God has done that for us. Praise God!