After a long drawn out winter, our souls have longed for the freshness of spring growth. Easter provides a sense of promise as we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in our church year. Spirits lift and joy returns in this season of hope and promise. The season of spring parallels the journey of our soul as we hope for new growth to emerge.
The season of spring parallels the journey of our soul as we hope for new growth to emerge.
St Therese of Lisieux uses images of nature to understand the work that God calls us to in this season. The variety of the different types of flowers speaks to her of the importance of diversity in creating beauty. “Perfection”, St Therese says, “consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.” So as our gardens begin to sprout and take shape, we may ask ourselves, “What is emerging for me in my life at this time?”
Our gardens may take shape as wild, uncultivated spaces, or they may be meticulously neat, with a perfect variety of colours, and the diversity of height and shape in different plants. One of my favourite places to visit a garden is in Assiniboine Park. The English Garden is a lush celebration of colour with flowers of amazing variety and intricate form. Often in the evening, the scent emanating from various cultivars adds another possibility of engaging in the experience of the garden with all my senses. Occasionally, I like to visit the French Formal Garden as well. Each shrub is perfectly shaped with a symmetrical arrangement of plants along the borders of the garden. The lush greenness of the space is tamed into a perfect arrangement that is both pleasing to the eye and peaceful to the soul.
Although I love to spend time in the garden, tending each gift of creation, tasting the sweet ripeness of the raspberries in the summer, immersed in the scent and rich feel of the soil, I couldn’t say that I am a good gardener or that my garden looks well tended. I often wonder if the wild and irrational arrangement of the flowers somehow parallels the messiness of my daily schedule and the crowded feeling my life often seems to have. But perhaps there is also a sense in which the uncultivated nature of my garden appeals to me. There can be a sense of anticipation and surprise – an openness to what might be or what could emerge over which I don’t have total control.
There are many places in scripture where gardens are mentioned. One that we recently read about was the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray with his disciples before he was crucified. We read that Jesus was so troubled when praying in this garden, drops of blood emerged from his sweat. I believe this is a way of saying that this was the site of Jesus’ deepest prayers. If I picture the Garden of Gethsemane, I see it as a place of lush growth, perhaps almost overgrown, with some areas of tangled growth beginning to block out the sun. Historical sources suggest that this garden was a garden of olive trees, likely irrigated and may have had some form of shelter in it as well as a press to create olive oil. This is a place that provided a rich backdrop to Jesus’ fervent prayer to his Father.
As you anticipate the coming season of freshness and generativity, what new growth might be emerging for you?
As you anticipate the coming season of freshness and generativity, what new growth might be emerging for you? This may be a time to quietly encounter God and experience a call to a new direction, new work, to cultivate a relationship with Christ more deeply by digging around the roots of your faith. You could spend time thinking about the images provided by different types of gardens. They may offer an opportunity for peaceful contemplation of your life’s work and direction or an agonizing cry to the Father. Are you able to experience yourself as being the best expression of who God has called you to be? If not, what might God be calling you to change or to re-evaluate? How do these images of growth and renewal speak to you?
As you spend time with these garden images, may you encounter the wildness of God’s varied garden of life and the gentle reminder of God’s sustaining grace.