About a year ago, my wife and I bought a house in an inner-city neighborhood which had been established more than one hundred years ago. In fact, at that time it was a farmland community that turned into a village, and then settled into a neighborhood as the city of now more than 2.5 million people grew outward to meet it. Then it kept on going. Our house was a rebuild, its previous version having been torn down to the foundation and a fresh design built in its place with updated materials. Its decent-sized front and back yards have been obviously well-trodden, and often tell tales of their past hosts by revealing interesting items just beneath their surfaces, especially after heavy rains. When we moved in, the house had been finished and dormant more than a year prior, so the lawns were a bit disheveled-looking. But in my ensconced western culture thinking, they were blank canvases on which I could not fail to produce masterpieces, because everyone is an artist and it’s not the canvas that is overly important, but the opportunity. That’s a topic for another day, though.
As the first mild winter came and went, I somehow failed to notice that the lawn I did have in the back yard, sparse as it was, had completely vanished. As I sulked through a plan of attack to correct this, I was mildly comforted that my front lawn was thick and probably the brightest shade of green in the neighborhood. Excellent. But, then again, that’s how crabgrass is: thick, bright and drought-resistant. Perfectly reliable while requiring nothing of you. It was ugly, but it was green and it was present. As the summer heat cranked up more and more toward
record levels, I became less and less interested in recovering for myself and our house the magazine quality lawns in my mind.
It was during this same time period, in this same summer heat, I began to reluctantly notice that the grass pastures of my inner man were in the same condition as the lawns of my abode. The front, which was the me I presented to the world that everyone observed, was thick and green, giving the appearance of health, but was none other than crabgrass, the woeful imposter. The back yard of my inner self, surrounded by a privacy fence, as was my real yard, had also become void of grass. It was a desert of dust in the heat and also a revealer of hidden unpleasantries after the heavy rains of life’s circumstances. I soon began to see that the Divine Artist was painting a picture around the outside of me that mirrored what was going on around the inside of me, and it was a spot-on match.
I prayed to and questioned the Lord who, throughout my life, has manifested His grace toward me time and time again, walking and talking with me. Nothing. I prayed some more, asked harder questions, while at the same time having to rise up to fight the accusations flying at me as to why He, who had always been patient for me to return while I explored little rabbit trails that led me away from Him, had withdrawn. Was I on a rabbit trail now? Still, nothing. Somewhat distraught, I put everything down: my projects, my to do lists, emails, texts, all of my “what-have-yous.” I had to go find Him. Immediately. I had to find my Gardener.
Joe the Landscaper had come to my attention on a recommendation. I contacted him not long after we moved into our house, to get help with the lawns. He came almost immediately at my call. He aerated, seeded, fertilized, and instructed me in a manner that should have all but guaranteed my success. “Water,” he said. “Water every day.” He also told me of worse- looking lawns and scenarios of decay that were beyond what I was experiencing which he had remedied, tended to, and brought back to a beauty that was better than before. The inner familiarity I had with the Gardener of my heart, which closely resembled Joe’s outward attentive presence and instruction for my lawns, let me know he was my guy. I did what he said to do for a little while, but for whatever reason I missed a day or two here and there, which made it easier not to continue when I remembered the instructions he had given me. As the weather got hotter and hotter, it was reasonably easy for me to justify over time a “why bother?” attitude. I had already missed enough opportunities to see the decay that defied what my guy, Joe the Landscaper, and I had discussed with confidence.
So, for weeks, I went looking for Him each day and many nights. The Lord. The Gardener and Landscaper of the pasture in my heart. Because I believed Him when He said, “I will never leave you, or forsake you,” I knew I needed to look no further than the lawns and pastures of the inner abode in my own heart which, because of Him, were far bigger than I remembered. A friend of mine, who was also familiar with the Lord as a Gardener and Landscaper, was gracious enough to
notice that I was looking, and spent some time helping me search. As we did, the soil yielded up things that I had long ago buried and forgotten. The problem was that I had uncovered some of these things before, but left them in place to ultimately be buried yet again, never having properly disposed of them. There was no getting around these now. I was on a mission and they were in my way. If I didn’t permanently remove them, they would continue to contaminate the soil, prohibit growth, and make the gardening harder if not impossible. Just like it is with my guy, Joe the Landscaper, I have a responsibility to do things that contribute to what he’s trying to help me do.
Speaking of Joe, I called him one day when I was dismayed. Dismayed by the false front lawn of crabgrass and dejected by the desert of dirt around my back yard patio. I couldn’t take it anymore and I ripped into him a little bit about what HE had failed to accomplish. Again, he came almost immediately. He asked me a few questions about the instructions he had given me and then boldly said, “I see what’s happening here. You didn’t keep up with what I told you to do and are blaming me for what we’re seeing.” Me: “Well, umm…” Joe the Landscaper had just quickly and efficiently shamed me back into reality by exposing me to myself. But he was gracious in doing so.
My hunch that the Gardener of my heart couldn’t leave or forsake me, because He had promised not to, was correct. I found Him. I found Him because He was leading me all along, though I hadn’t perceived it. He chose this way in our
relationship and in this instance so I could take note of things I had to do for myself, which I had stopped doing. Things that were necessary because the clutter between us, of those things being undone, was becoming prohibitive. He, likewise, had exposed me to myself and was gracious in doing so.
At about this time, having found again the Gardener of my heart, Joe and I resumed our partnership. He killed the crabgrass in front of our home, and though that made things look even worse, I felt great about it. He aerated, seeded, fertilized, and instructed me afresh. “Water. Water every day.” This time I’m doing my part consistently, both within and without, and new shoots of real grass are everywhere, both within and without. Joe doesn’t come over to water; I do it. Joe doesn’t come over to pick up the endless saw blades, broomsticks, broken glass, and other junk that work their way to the surface of the well-trodden soil; I do it.
The parallels, or prophetic connection, of these two scenarios happening to me at the same time this past summer have instructed me greatly. Through it all, just as I had faith to believe that the seeds of grass would fall into the ground and die, then rise anew to grace the abode of my home, my faith to know that the Gardener of my heart had, in like manner, fallen into the ground and died to rise anew and grace the abode of my inner man. Who I truly am required something of me. Something that I once again live to give and give to live.