Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

Scenic views are important. At least they are to me. Since I spend so much time in the kitchen, I am grateful that the view from the kitchen window is one that I never tire of. It may not be facing the Priest River as do the living room windows, but it nicely frames a backdrop of tall evergreen and tamarack trees, an expanse of green lawn, and our flower-lined, fenced back area that includes two very large bull pine trees. Indiscreetly tucked in between our chain link fence line and the neighbor’s grass lies a fenced garden space.

Even though this modest garden is on the neighbor’s property, it appears to fit intimately into the entire scene. Perhaps this is because wandering grape vines from our grape arbor, which is situated outside the fenced areas, have unashamedly invited themselves into the neighbor’s property. There they have joined in a merry marriage with grape vines from a smaller arbor inside the garden. It’s as if they are proclaiming that no matter which side of the fence they are planted on, nothing can hinder them from climbing up, over and beyond any obstacle in order to proclaim that they are one, and life itself is beautiful.

Once I learned that the property next door, with its unpretentious garden, belonged to our neighbor’s father, who had given it to her, I began to wonder about this man who had poured so much of his heart and labor into it. It is obvious that his daughter and her family try to care for it as best as they can, even though they do not live here full-time. However, as with our two acres of trees and broad expanses of lawns, the upkeep is not minor. Thus, the garden is beginning to show neglect as weeds, grass and overgrown raspberry bushes compete for supremacy.

In her kindness last year, the daughter invited us to come over and harvest the rhubarb. There are two lovely rhubarb plants that are holding their own against the persistent wild grass. Finding myself inside the garden, I once again began to notice the loving care and personal touches the former owner had made. I thought of his hands fashioning the small grape arbor inside the garden, and how he had planned out where to place the rhubarb plants. He had built a low board enclosure for strawberries, and also had built a sturdy fence row for his raspberries to climb on. The two broad rows of carefully placed iris, standing proud and tall with their bright flowers give evidence of the gardener’s love for contrast and color. It almost seems as if they are trying to maintain their special status in the enclosed garden by letting the world know that regardless of the unkempt turf around them, they remain dedicated to being faithful to the original vision.

Since we were invited last year to use the garden area if we wanted to plant vegetables, this spring I couldn’t resist the urge to take her up on it, at least to some extent. Our growing season here is a mere 90 days, so planning a wide variety of produce is out of my range of experience, and physical ability to handle. However, when I ran across tomato plants for sale that came from tomatoes that grow well in this area, I took the plunge and brought some home. Now I had baby tomato plants to keep alive until the weather warmed up. Well, the weather hasn’t been too kind to little tomato plants this spring, or any other kind of sun-loving green and growing thing for that matter, so on Memorial Day into the garden they went in spite of cooler than normal temps and an abundance of rain.

Whenever I unlatch the garden gate and step inside, a feeling comes over me that is hard to describe. The awareness that the soft soil under my feet is not mine surrounds me as I silently work at removing weeds, and pruning stray branches. Thoughts of the man who established the garden always begin to trickle into my mind. In this hushed place, surrounded by towering trees pointing skyward to heaven, I can’t help but wonder if he knew the Lord. It seems to me that the people who are close to the earth, who work the land, planting, tending, and reaping, are somehow more keenly aware of man’s utter dependency upon their Creator, and the miracle of it all.

I know nothing about the person who loved this place long before we ever saw it. All I know is that in some special and small way, his work represents a legacy of the man. I am sure there is much, much more about him that only his family knows, but the fact remains that there is a testimony in the garden, and surrounding land, of a life lived by a man whose tenderness, loving care and joy of living remains for others to see if they would only take the time to look, and consider.

My desire to make the garden as perfect as possible is hindered by, not only the uncooperative weather, but by physical limitations. In addition, I am not willing to disturb Mr. and Mrs. Robin who have chosen the privacy and safety of this little spot of ground to build a nest in the grape arbor. And, even though it’s not up to me to tackle the challenge of caring for more than the one row of tomatoes and peppers, it gives me a real sense of joy and satisfaction to be able to quietly “go the extra mile” for our neighbors.

What lessons are there that we can learn from the legacy of the garden? I think that the first thing we must ask ourselves is, What kind of a lasting legacy will remain after I am gone? What will I be remembered for most? Will my legacy resemble the stench of a garbage dump, filled with broken and ruined bits and pieces of a life lived in vain? Will pride, rebellion and sin stand as an ugly and mute reminder of a wasted life? Or, will my life resemble the garden—a life that planted seeds of life (the Word of God), and worked to produce fruit for the benefit of others—a life that sought to commune with the Lord in the secret place of His glory and holiness? Can we confidently rest assured that our legacy will be a life that, while not perfect in every way, was nevertheless “a living sacrifice,” a life lived for the glory of God, and not for our own glory and praise of man?

Gardens are special places in the Bible. In Genesis 2:8, 9, we read of the first Gardener, “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Man’s first home was the Garden of Eden, or the Garden of the Lord, prepared for him by the hand of God. It was not a mansion on a hilltop, or a cabin in the mountains, or a penthouse apartment in a crowded city. Everything he had need of was in this special garden. The Garden of the Lord was perfect in every way. It holds a unique legacy for this is where the sin of one man (See Romans 5) brought death to all men, but also where the first promise of the Savior was given to woman (Genesis 3:15). Indeed, this garden’s legacy is that of separation. It was here that God made a separation out of Adam’s side to create the first woman. It was in this garden that God stipulated that a man should separate from his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife. Adam’s decision to take of the forbidden fruit instead of stepping in to save his wife (and himself), caused an instant separation from God, which is death. Thus, animals were separated from their lives as well in order to provide clothing for Adam and Eve. As a result of Eve’s transgression because she was deceived, and Adam’s sin because of his rebellion, both were separated forever from the Garden of God.

The legacy of another garden, the Garden of Gethsemane is suffering. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” Luke 22:44. Oswald Chambers, concerning Christ’s agony in this garden, wrote: “We can never fathom the agony in Gethsemane, but at least we need not misunderstand it. It is the agony of God and Man in one, face to face with sin. We know nothing about Gethsemane in personal experience. Gethsemane and Calvary stand for something unique; they are the gateway into Life for us….

“It was not the death on the cross that Jesus feared in Gethsemane; He stated most emphatically that He came on purpose to die. In Gethsemane He feared lest He might not get through as Son of Man. He would get through as Son of God — Satan could not touch Him there; but Satan’s onslaught was that he would get through as an isolated Figure only; and that would mean that he could be no Savior….

“The agony in Gethsemane is the agony of the Son of God in fulfilling His destiny as the Saviour of the world. The veil is drawn aside to reveal all it cost Him to make it possible for us to become sons of God. His agony is the basis of the simplicity of our salvation. The Cross of Christ is a triumph for the son of Man. It was not only a sign that Our Lord had triumphed, but that He had triumphed to save the human race. Every human being can get through into the presence of God now because of what the Son of Man went through.”

It is in this garden that suffering of heart and soul descended upon the disciples. After the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, each one entered into his own personal crucible. Again, Oswald Chambers says it best: “Watch with Me”—with no private point of view of your own at all, but watch entirely with Me. In the early stages we do not watch with Jesus, we watch for Him. We do not watch with Him through the revelation of the Bible; in the circumstances of our lives. Our Lord is trying to introduce us to identification with Himself in a particular Gethsemane, and we will not go; we say—‘No, Lord, I cannot see the meaning of this, it is bitter.’ How can we possibly watch with Someone Who is inscrutable? How are we going to understand Jesus sufficiently to watch with Him in His Gethsemane, when we do not know even what His suffering is for? We do not know how to watch with Him; we are only used to the idea of Jesus watching with us.”

“The disciples loved Jesus Christ to the limit of their natural capacity, but they did not understand what He was after. In the Garden of Gethsemane they slept for their own sorrow, and at the end of three years of the closest intimacy they ‘all forsook Him and fled.’”

“[After Pentecost] they were all filled with the Holy Ghost’—the same ‘they,’ but something wonderful has happened in between, viz., Our Lord’s Death and Resurrection and Ascension, and the disciples have been invaded by the Holy Spirit. Our Lord had said—“Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you,” and this meant that they learned to watch with Him all the rest of their lives.”

Finally, there is that special garden, which, like the Garden of Eden, holds a legacy of both death (separation) and life (eternal). John 19: 41, 42 says, “Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.”  We know that this must have been a beautiful garden, for it was tended by a gardener who was, no doubt, hired to care for it. (See John 20:15). While the Garden of Eden began with new life, and ended in separation and death, this final garden’s legacy began with the horrors of the crucifixion of the Son of God, but ends with the promise of new and eternal life through His resurrection in power and glory.

Our lives, and the legacy we leave behind, can be likened to these three gardens. We come into this world; we are separated from God by sin until we repent (turn about face); believe (in our hearts) who Jesus is (God incarnate); and, receive what He did for us on the cross, and through His resurrection. Suffering is also a part of our journey through this world, and suffering for our faith in being identified with Christ as our Lord (master) can be a legacy that greatly impacts others. Finally, there is the garden of death, however it may come to us, if Jesus tarries; however, because He lives, we who are His also have the hope and blessed assurance of resurrection and eternal life.

The question is, what are you sowing into the garden of your life? Remember, you will reap what you sow, both in this world and the next. The legacy you leave behind will either bring joy, and the hope of reunion in heaven to the lives of those who know and love you, or sorrow and heartache. It all depends on how you daily sow into your life’s garden.