I come to the garden alone.
While the snow is still draped over the swollen earth. Where drifts have settled over decaying plant life and where the ground is hard and frosty.
Surveying this ground now, I wonder how anything good can grow here? In its current state, I cannot fathom it green and new and bursting with life. Like I have seen it do before.
I did not prepare for the Winter this year; I didn’t even raise much of a garden. A few herbs here and there– and I left it to the care of others who were busy enough with their own affairs.
So now I am worried… will it be fertile? Best case scenario, it will need a little extra work.
And I must have faith that, though the cold is so prevalent now, Spring will come. It always comes… and with it, a renewed hope.
I look at my heart in the Winter stillness of a new year.
And I see a garden, in need of faith and preparation.
Looking back over my Christian walk of many years, I see the statistics– if you will- of my relationship with Jesus rising and falling. Like a heart beat monitor. Up, up up… plunge. Up, again, down again. It seems that every time I reached a place where I was walking in Love with my Savior, and enjoying a true personal and close relationship with Him, I would let my guard down.
Reaching a place of peace, I mistook it for a time of peace in the Spiritual realm.
But those don’t exist.
I peeled off my armor, set down my weapons, and turned my back on the enemy. No sooner was I disarmed and inattentive, did he strike. Cunningly. Bombarded with distractions, lured into shadowy places, and all the while my enemy subtly concealing what what was truly happening, it would be a long way down the slope before I would look up and see how far I’d slid.
I just didn’t realize it was happening.
Like getting dehydrated, you don’t experience the tell-tale symptoms until you’ve already hit the point.
I’m looking at my heart as a Garden this new year, because I am so ready for change and growth. I want a heart open and willing. I want the seeds planted, I want to wait patiently for sprouts to show. I want to water and care for and nurture the soil they grow in.
Just as we cannot take off our armor when things look peaceful, we cannot stop weeding when the garden looks healthy. Weeds are always coming back up. Arrows are always being fired. Our hearts and our Spirits need to be cared for and protected. Just like our physical health. Just like our relationships.
Right now, I am toiling to prepare the soil of my heart, and am spending time in His word, allowing the Gardener to carefully plant each tiny, precious seed. I’ll wait in patient faith for Winter to melt away, and keep guard over the little plantings I cannot see. Believing the promise that they will come forth in due time.
And as Spring awakens… I will watch in wonder as new life emerges. I will come to the garden while the dew is still on the roses, and I will inspect it, removing each little weed before it can take a firm root. I will tend it and water it, under the careful guidance of my Master the Gardener. And in due season, I will rejoice as I watch Him harvest the fruit.
- Prepare the Soil
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” –I Peter 5:6,7
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” –Colossians 3:13
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” –I Peter 1:13
Humble yourself, repent of any wrong paths you see you have strayed to, and take a deep breath as you refocus. Renew your mind. Forgive others, and yourself. Lay your burdens at His feet. Accept His amazing grace, and begin your new journey. The bottom line and first step in preparing your heart for change is simply being willing to change.
- Plant the Seed
“I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” –Psalm 119:11
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –II Peter 1:5-8
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” –Colossians 3:12
Know His words, all He has called you to be. Embrace them! God does not call us to any place we are incapable of reaching– through His strength and grace. Have patience, don’t beat yourself up. One seed at a time, sow carefully. Keep adding until the garden is full. (This takes time, you know.) Ask Him what He would have you plant, (and He is all too willing to help).
- Water the Sprouts
“Therefore, encourage one another, and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” –I Thessalonians 5:11
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” –II Timothy 1:7
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” –I Thessalonians 5:16,17
“And pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” –Ephesians 6:18
When your garden shows progress (or even looks perfect and bountiful), you don’t stop watering it. It will wither. It doesn’t just stay luscious and green without effort. It needs constant upkeep. Likewise, your heart and your mind slip into their old ways when you reach a comfortable place and stop seeking Jesus with your whole heart. Like being in a mild current, if you stop swimming against it, you’re going to be carried back down stream. So when you see your garden sprouting, pray. Pray even more than before– because now you have your enemy’s attention, and he’s going to send all sorts of bugs and blights your way. Stay in the precious Word, adding to your knowledge and faith. Build your Relationship with the Gardener. Grow.
- Pull the Weeds
“Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” –I Thessalonians 5:21,22
“…and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” –Romans 14:23b
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” –Ephesians 4:31
“And do not give the devil a foothold.” –Ephesians 4:27
Always keep watch. Pull things out before they take root. Don’t give the enemy an inroad into your heart and life. By holding onto a known sin, you usher him through the door. Weeds aren’t an independent nuisance; they don’t keep to themselves– they choke what is good. You can’t afford them.
- Reaping the Harvest
“Remember this: whoever sows sparingly reaps sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” –II Corinthians 9:6
“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” –Galatians 6:9
“The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward.” –Proverbs 11:18
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers, and you are God’s field, His building.” –I Corinthians 3:6-9
All things have their season, and He makes all things beautiful in their time. While the first step is yours to let go and let God lead you, remember that He is the one who gives you strength. Without Him, all our attempted righteousness counts as nothing– but through Him, we can become and do great things. Don’t strive, thrive. Be held, and commit to doing good. Keep on choosing what is right. There is so much fullness in walking with Jesus, in having the Holy Spirit indwell you. I want to attain all that He has for me to learn, and complete all that He has prepared in advance for me to do. I want Him.
And this year, I place my heart at His feet.