For most of my conscious memory, I’ve had a black thumb. Cacti didn’t stand a chance. Does anyone know how to perform CPR on an air plant? Do rock gardens need water?
Yet, I really enjoy the beauty of nature. Lush greenery and vibrant flowers literally breathe out life to us. The coolness that creeps off the shade of tropical foliage brings restoration. It’s so easy to see how gardeners are transported to another place has they dig through the soil and tend their plots.
Don’t be surprised if you feel this way too. Our souls are wired for garden life. In the beginning when God deemed things “very good,” there we were winding through plush paths lined with breath-taking flora. No weeds. Perfect temps (You can read the details yourself, but no one was hunting for a jacket in Eden). And at the end of the days, “happy hour” was spent hanging out with God himself.
One day, someone left the gate open to the Garden. A serpent made its way inside. This was not your typical serpent, this guy stood upright and had a command of whatever language was spoken there. What seems perplexing from our perspective was apparently pretty run-of-the-mill in the Garden, because without blinking an eye, Eve engaged the sneaky cheat in casual conversation like two neighbors chatting over a hedge.
You are familiar with the rest of the story – The snake tricked Eve. She made a really bad choice snacking on ripe fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She invited Adam on her little walk on the wild side. Serious consequences followed. Things haven’t been the same since.
There’s a little line tucked away at the end of the story of “The Fall” that I never noticed until recently – it begins “After he [God] drove the man out, . . . Adam and Eve did not exit the Garden quietly. Security was called. They were sent packing – kicking and screaming. Even if (like me) you fancy yourself a “beach” person or maybe a “mountain person,” we are all really “garden people.” If we ever got a glimpse of Eden, God would have to drive us out too.
At first, God’s eviction from Eden may seem heartless and cruel. How could He? Labor pains and dry land weren’t enough? Actually, aside from the events that took place on that Friday afternoon at Calvary, bouncing man out of the Garden may have been one of God’s greatest acts of love. Had He left us there, we most likely would have partaken from another tree – the Tree of Life. Eating from that second Tree would have condemned us to a fallen state for life– for eternal life.
God has a better plan. A plan of redemption. God promises that another Garden is on the horizon – a new heaven and a new earth. Some even suggest that the new Garden will surpass the old Garden, which itself is beyond our human comprehension.
In the meantime, we have to navigate the reality between these two Gardens. It’s rocky. I’m sorry; you are infertile. It’s arid. I’m sorry; sales are down and here’s your notice of termination. It’s thorny. I’m sorry; there’s nothing more that we can do. This world is upside down and inside out. Nothing is the way that it is was created to be.
When Jesus came, he too had to trek through this earthly terrain. Late one Thursday evening and toward the wee hours of a Friday morning, Jesus found himself in garden between the Gardens – the Garden of Gethsemane. This garden is located in Jerusalem at the foothills of the Mount of Olives and the name, “Gethsemane,” is derived from an Aramaic word meaning “oil press.” As fitting a description in the first century as it is for today. This time between the two idyllic gardens is pressing – to put it mildly. The “rocks” of this garden crush our spirits.
In that pressing garden, Jesus did something very human – something many of us have done at some point – Jesus prayed. “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me. Still not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Jesus prayed –a very human act. Jesus was leaning on God, the Father –Our Father –in one of his darkest human moments, the eve of His crucifixion. The act of praying may have been ordinary, but this was no ordinary prayer. “He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that the sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
When our patience is pressed, it’s hard to say, “Thy will be done.” When our spirits are crushed by the weight of our own crosses, “Thy will be done” are not the first words that come to mind. When our brows are soaked in droplets of pink, who has the strength to whisper, “Thy will be done?”
Jesus did. When Jesus was pressed, crushed, and soaked, He put His hope in the Father. Jesus shows us how to place our faith in the Father even when our will doesn’t align with His. Jesus demonstrates how to dig deep when we are tempted to defy His will in favor of our own.
We may have lost our way in the first Garden but we need not meander aimlessly through the labyrinth of this rocky, arid, thorny garden.
“Thy will be done”
Humble surrender as modeled in a quiet garden over two thousand years ago.
Hope grounded in God’s faithful response to our own surrender.
God didn’t drive man out of the first garden to leave him to wander a rock garden. No, He has provided a path home. We need only be willing to say, “Thy will be done.”
Dear Father, we put our “black thumbprint” on everything we touch. Help us to see that You have a Garden prepared for us. One that will never wilt. One that overflows with abundance. One that is designed perfectly for our souls. May the Holy Spirit nurture in us a faithful surrender. Grow our faith beyond our pride. Replace the “pressing” with the hope of “Thy will be done.” In Jesus’ name, Amen!