- Who are you when no one’s looking?
- How are you like when you’re all alone?
- Where would you go if no one was directing you?
These are the questions that have been ringing in my head the past three weeks. This might sound depressing, but when I answered these questions honestly, I saw that my heart was all tangled up for reasons I couldn’t pin-point or identify.
It’s been disconcerting, to say the least. And I was puzzled because I had no reason to be unhappy: Just a month ago, I married the man I’ve journeyed with for the past six years and we spent our honeymoon in the beautiful Maldives!
… my inner man was surrounded by dark clouds most of the time – heavy from all that I had heard …
However, as I paused to reflect, I realised that certain events had affected me more than I thought.
After the honeymoon, I returned to my work with the youth ministry in church, where I faced a number of intense conversations with a few youths. That meant unexpected late nights ministering as they often approached me unannounced. This often led to tears before the Father as I sought direction, intervention and grace.
Before I knew it, my inner man was surrounded by dark clouds most of the time – heavy from all that I had heard from the young, struggling lives. My physical body was not at rest, my mind was on auto-pilot nightly, my emotions were riding rollercoasters – my heart aching for the Lord to bring restoration and breakthrough.
It came to a point where I asked God where my safe place was – where I could go to get away.
I recognised that it was only in getting away with Him that my heart could be put at ease and rest in the midst of storms. And the Lord said to me in a gentle and quiet whisper: “A garden enclosed.”
His response is written in Song of Solomon 4:12. The chapter is an allegory of a bride and groom, whose courtship and marriage reflect God’s pursuit of our hearts. The beloved describes the Shulamite woman as a garden enclosed, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed – all of which suggests privacy, separation, and sacredness.
These traits are much like the posture and attitude of our hearts that the Lord desires. We were created to be reserved for the Lord, a people devoted to Him.
I thought of how God “planted a garden in Eden,” where “He put the man whom He had formed (Genesis 2:8).” As I spent time in prayer and gave room for His word to speak to me specifically about this “enclosed garden,” He highlighted three key actions required of me.
THE GARDENER’S THREE RULES
1. Tend to your garden
Tending means paying attention, watching over and applying ourselves to caring for something. Adam was given the same command in Genesis 2:15, “Then the Lord took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” While Adam was given a literal garden to tend, we have a figurative garden to tend – our hearts!
In the busyness and haste of life, we often forget about spending time with God in our garden, because it is doesn’t seem to be a productive activity. To a generation that has been won over by technology, it is difficult to put down our smart phones, tablets, laptops, and computers to pick up our Bibles, journals, or guitars. Funny enough, most of us don’t get our hands dirty with gardening anymore because it’s far easier to keep air plants alive as they don’t require much attention.
The Father always wants us to care for our garden. Give attention to the hidden places of your heart, and reserve your garden for the Lord for the simple fact that you have the privilege to commune with God Himself.
2. Plough your garden
Every garden requires ploughing and maintenance, without which it becomes a mess. Ploughing cuts, lifts and turns over soil. It often involves labour, investment of resources and intentionality.
Without ploughing (turning over the upper layer of soil), fresh nutrients are unable to nourish the new seeds to grow. And when the old weeds and previous crops aren’t buried, they may potentially choke up or hinder new seedlings from growing healthily.
“Why can’t I feel God? Why does God feel absent?”
Similarly, our gardens must go through the process of ploughing in order for all that is unhealthy to be weeded out, and for healthy seeds to grow in the Lord. There are no short cuts with ploughing, and the greatest enemy of ploughing is procrastination. Once we begin to put God off, we’ll inevitably fall into a cycle of perpetually putting Him off.
And we ask then, “Why can’t I feel God? Why does God feel absent?”
Personally, with all that I have been experiencing in the recent few weeks, ploughing my garden meant choosing to stay with the mess. It meant acknowledging that I had some cleaning up, seeding and watering to do before I can see growth in my garden again.
Perhaps, ploughing may also mean letting go of weeds which have been choking me, such as releasing forgiveness where required.
For all of us, being on earth is a life-long process of ploughing our garden — to constantly soften the ground so that it doesn’t become hardened towards God. In doing so, we consistently recognise and confess that we are all pilgrims on a journey of sanctification – always in need of their Saviour.
3. Love your garden
In the midst of writing this article, a dear mentor reminded me in a conversation we had: “Spend time with God at the end of each day so that the junk and worries of each day will not have a hold on your heart.”
Loving my garden meant loving time spent with the Lord, and allowing Him to love me as I give all my worries and cares to Him (1 Peter 5:7). I am convinced that there is no place more important than my secret place with the Lord. Ryan Kondo aptly sang in his song, I Will Wait,
Jesus, the lover of my soul,
The one who’s in control, when all the world fails me
Jesus, the one who draws me near,
Whose voice I long to hear, the One who is in me
On You who calms the seas;
On You who loves to speak to me;
On You, I will wait patiently
I will wait, wait to hear Your voice
in the midst of this noise
You’re all I want to hear, God
I will wait, for the silence to break
You’re all I want to hear, God!
At the end of each day, who has your heart? If you are holding your own heart, you’re in the wrong hands. Take it from one who has had her own way the past three weeks before eventually caving in to Jesus. There is no one you can trust more than Christ alone.
If you’ve been feeling down and out, without purpose or vision – get up-close and personal with God. Hide away with Him in your garden enclosed!
This article was first published on Selah’s website, and is republished with permission.