by Elaine Helms
We had dinner in the new home of my cousin when she moved back to town. It was a lovely evening, during the course of which she showed us around her intriguing courtyard garden. Both of us were drawn to the excellent job she had done with laying stone for sitting areas and paths. My thoughts started whirling as I considered a favorite private spot in our own backyard, where we had a lone cement bench.
It wasn’t long after that visit that we headed to home improvement stores to shop for our own artistic masterpiece. My recently retired husband happily engaged in our new project, and we spent many weekend hours digging, leveling, dreaming, and laying stone. We planted flowering shrubs along the curvy path, then blooming plants in pots next to and behind the bench. It all created just the right vibe fit for a secret garden.
We were so excited and thought how much it looked like something at many flower shows we had attended. What a delight to sit on the bench and savor the beauty, and to be inspired to worship our Creator who created everything for our enjoyment.
Eventually, a few rainy days kept us inside. When I finally walked back out to look at it, to my horror thousands of little green weeds had sprouted, filling part of the mulched path and in between plants. I marveled at how quickly my spotless, manicured garden had changed into a plot in need of a gardener on her knees.
Three parallels to my walk with our Lord suddenly struck me as I began to pull weeds.
First, it never ceases to amaze me how quickly a voracious weed can appear seemingly out of nowhere and spoil a beautiful scene. Just like when surprising negative thoughts suddenly appear without warning. Like those pesky weeds, when allowed to linger and be nurtured, those thoughts could develop into full-fledged sin. As my garden needs faithful attention, so do my thoughts and walk with my Lord.
A little time with Jesus, the Master Gardener, allows Him to point out those weeds in my heart. Selfish ambition, pride, arrogance, and hurt feelings allowed to fester can be detrimental to my spiritual growth; but I can confess and turn from them, and know I am forgiven. “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15, NASB).
Second, the healthiest, most productive plants are those that have been fertilized and get the appropriate amount of sun. In the same way, yielding to the Spirit and knowing God in ever-deepening ways are fertilizer, water, and sunshine to a healthy and productive heart. As Paul wrote: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB).
Third, the kind of flowers, fruit, or vegetables produced in my garden totally depend on the kind of seeds that were planted. This reminded me to take care in what I plant in my heart—Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Matthew 12:34b NASB).
I feel close to God when I visit with Him in the garden; but even closer when I yield my heart to His Master Gardener’s touch.
About the author: With her passion for God, humor, vulnerability, and spiritual strength, Elaine Helms encourages audiences and readers to draw closer to God and live the abundant life Jesus came to give His followers. Prayer Coordinator for the Southern Baptist Convention for 10 years, and Prayer Coordinator for My Hope America with Billy Graham 2012-2013, Elaine has over 28 years of experience in church, national, and interdenominational prayer leadership. www.ChurchPrayerMinistries.org
God is at work all around us, doing things that only He can do. Prayer is His plan for accomplishing His Purposes, and He invites you to join Him. Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know, is a comprehensive guidebook for discovering how to pray as God intends. You’ll journey through Scripture, find inspiration in the stories of others, and learn simple and effective principles for prayer. An ideal resource for groups, Prayer 101 includes review questions for each chapter and a prayer ministry guide for churches eager to put prayer into action.
Join the conversation: How has the Master Gardener been at work in you lately?