In the fourth grade, I was given “In The Garden” to sing for the hymnal concert.
I wanted to choose a different hymn. So badly. I had one picked out. But, this one seemed to choose me. So, I sang it with a smile and a just a hint of bitterness.
Years later, though, my childhood disappointment, would turn into one of my greatest appointments.
This time last year, I attended an event that swept me out of shadows and into the radiant light of Christ. The name of it? The Garden. My Jesus drew me in with color and life and spring and flowers. Enchanted me like a Rose of Sharon.
After the event, I hear the strum of a soft guitar and the voice of Johnny Cash fill the room, singing “In the Garden.”
I weep. The hymn I once rejected became the image I now clung to in hope and delight.
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.
I need the steps of Jesus, bidding me go, through the voice of woe, unto to green pastures.
I need the voice of Jesus, so sweet the birds hush their singing, reminding me I am His.
And while He walks with me and talks with me, I find that my joy, once stolen, is full.
Recently, I came back to it after I found myself face to face with thorny disappointment.
The color of floral goodness dim and covered by brier.
Having tossed to and fro through the night, I lay restless under my quilt this morning.
While the dew is still on the roses, I hear my invitation in the ever quickening beat of my heart.
Come to the garden.
I roll back the covers and pull on my robe, noticeably covered in pink roses.
Sleepy eyed, I put the kettle on and pick up my tea cup, realizing it, too, had delicate pink roses painted on it (if you’re interested in learning more about the sweet back story of this tea cup of mine, I wrote a little something in I’m A Little Teacup on how it serves as a unique image of hope in suffering and disappointment).
I, quite literally, come to my own little garden. Alone.
And I think of Mary waiting beside the empty tomb early in the morning. Alone.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
We may not be quick to catch His presence in the midst of our pain, but He’s there.
Walking. Talking. Alive. Calling us by name.
Reminding us that every disappointment melts in light of the sweet truth of being completely and securely His.
This truth is magnified in His Word, but also in the words of Teresa of the Little Flower, which I rest upon this morning.
I wish to suffer for Love’s sake and for Love’s sake even to rejoice; thus shall I strew flowers. Not one shall I find without shedding its petals for Thee…and then I will sing, I will always sing, even if I must gather my roses in the very midst of thorns – and the longer and sharper the thorns the sweeter shall be my song.
And so, in the garden this morning, while the dew is still on the roses, I gather them among the thorns.
Even as they sting me with their prick, I will always sing.
I fill my little living room with the same soft strum of the guitar and the voice of Johnny Cash, singing “In the Garden.”
I go back and whisper to my fourth grade self, “Hear. Listen. You’ll need this.”
But now, I sing, with not even a hint of bitterness.
My smile, wider.
My song, sweeter.
Praise be to Him who turns our disappointments into provident appointments.
And turns our suffering into sweet, sweet songs.