Allegory of Five Gardens (Part One)

dry garden

Long ago, in a land far away, there lived five sisters. The Master Gardener, who loved them all very much, gave each sister a gift – a small plot of land to plant a garden. With excitement and hope, they prepared the soil and planted seeds, giving them lots of water and sunshine until they sprouted into healthy plants. As time went on, the five sisters tended to their gardens in their own different ways.

Months later, the Master Gardener invited each sister, one at a time, to come and share with him how her garden fared. The first sister approached with hesitant steps and slumped shoulders. She could barely look the Master Gardener in the eye.

“How does your garden fare, my child?”

“Not well, I’m ashamed to say. My garden is dry as dust. All the plants have withered and dried up and the soil is hard and cracked.”

“Do you know why?” the Master Gardener asked with gentle but questioning eyes

“Lack of water, I suppose,” she answered with a sigh.

“My dear one, you know that I have an abundant source of flowing water. You need only have asked, and I would have given you all the water you asked. Why did you never come to me?”

The sister paused before answering. “Lots of reasons, I guess. Sometimes I was just too busy. It seemed like the distance was too far to travel to get to the water. Other times I felt too unworthy to ask you for such a precious gift. After a while, I no longer remembered the water you had to offer.”

With a nod of understanding, the Master Gardener sent a steady rainfall to drench and quench her garden and bring it back to life. The plants and flowers responded immediately. The roots were strengthened, the leaves returned to a bright and vibrant shade of green. Flowers opened as the stems stretched tall to absorb the warm sunlight that followed the rain.

Tears of gratitude filled the eyes of the first sister, and she promised him she would never again forget about this precious gift that was hers for the taking.

REFLECTION:

Does your faith life ever resemble the dried up and withered garden of the first sister in this story? You’re stuck in a rut, uninspired, and unable to access the powerful connection you once felt to God – The Master Gardener. You feel more distant from God than ever before, unable to hear His whispers or feel His presence. Your faith life feels lifeless.

You are not alone. We all go through spiritual dry spells from time to time. Some ending quickly, others stretching out for a much longer time. God has given each of us our own personal Garden of Eden, lush and beautiful and overflowing with the abundant blessing of God’s love for us. But like any garden, it needs nourishment. God gives us the Living Water of Jesus Christ to nourish our spirit and bring us to new life.

Being in a spiritually dry place is not always a bad thing. God may be preparing us for something or reminding us of our dependence on His gift of grace. We need to live through the dry time in order to more fully engage in the fruitful spirituality that is to follow.

What’s important is to recognize those times when we are depleted or dry, for they can sneak up on us. “O God, my God! How I search for you! How I thirst for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. How I long to find you!” (Psalm 63:1) The next time you find yourself in the dry garden of faith, let your prayer become a conversation with God.

Dear Lord, my spiritual garden has become dried up and wilted. Why do I feel this distance? What is getting in the way of a closer intimacy with You? In Your wisdom, reveal to me the path that has led me to this place of thirst and dust. Remind me of Your gift of grace, that I may seek life giving water and come alive again.

Find a quiet place to spend some time alone with God. Pray for inspiration and ideas to reconnect with God in a personal way. Read Scripture, attend a retreat, talk to a friend or your priest or pastor. Be gentle with yourself and have faith that this season of dryness will pass. Remember, even the most dead-looking plant is often only dormant, waiting for the first light of spring to come to life again.

Living Water

 

Sand heart
Have you ever watched a small child try to build a castle out of dry sand? She painstakingly fills her pail with scoop after scoop of powdery white sand. With all her might, she lifts the heavy pail and quickly dumps it over. You cringe a bit, knowing what’s about to happen. With hope in her eyes, she lifts up the pail to reveal her creation. Tears of frustration flow as the sand collapses around her and the castle is leveled to the ground.

She doesn’t understand what went wrong. You know the secret and you want to rush over and tell her. She needs to add water! Wet sand is sturdy and strong. It will hold her castle together so it can stand tall. Without water, she’ll never succeed.

The dry sand in this story depicts a life lived apart from God. Dry, dusty, with no strong surface to gain a foothold through the trials of life. This kind of barren life is one we fall into because we choose to distance ourselves from God. It’s not something God “does” to us or wants for us. In fact, quite the opposite. In Isaiah 44:3, God promises: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring.” Jesus repeats this promise to the worshipers in the temple in John 7:37-38: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”

If we’re thirsty, it’s not because of an absence of water, it’s because we choose not to drink. Or maybe someone needs to help us find the water source.

Jesus describes the gift of the Holy Spirit as water because of its life giving properties. It sustains us, nourishes us, helps us to grow. It washes us clean and makes us new. God provided a limitless ocean for this little girl who longed to build a sturdy sand castle. It was right there for the taking. In the same way, all we need to do is receive the incredible gift of God’s grace.

The next time you feel like things are collapsing in around you, remember the strength that can be found in the “Living Water” of the Holy Spirit. It is the secret to a life filled with deep meaning and abundant blessings.

And it’s right there for the taking.

Refresh Me, Remind Me, Release Me

autumn-leaves-close-up-600x400
Lord, there are days when my prayer life stagnates. When the old trusty prayers fail to inspire. When new words won’t come. Everything is dry as the desert. On these days, I ask you to come to me in a new way. Help me discover fresh ways to see you, to talk with you… to know you. Refresh my desert days with living water.

Lord, there are days when I forget to pray at all. When signs of you are all around me, but I fail to see them. Instead my mind focuses on the endless “to do” list. The daily distractions of the outer world. On these days I ask you to send me a reminder of your loving presence. Help me to see your authorship in all that surrounds me. Guide me from my wandering with a gentle reminder.

Lord, there are days when I find myself stuck. Clenching my fist tightly around a past hurt or a stubborn mindset. This holding on becomes a holding back. On these days, I ask you to grant me permission to let go. Release me from all that holds me in chains. So that I might move forward in love and action and inspiration.

Amen.

Images of God

God is Light
Loving God, be my LIGHT
Source of my innermost being
Illuminating my path
Dispelling the darkness
Shining in the faces of the least of my brothers and sisters

Loving God, be my SHEPHERD
Bringing me to safety
Guiding me and leading me home
Whether one or one hundred
I am found

Loving God, be my ROCK
Safety and permanence
Ancient presence
Providing stability to cling to when the world tilts and swirls
You cannot be moved

Loving God, be my LIVING WATER
Refreshing streams flowing over dry, cracked earth
Quenching my thirst when I wander through the desert
Washing me clean with gentle mercy
The source of life in You

AMEN.