Rabboni! A walk with the Gardener

garden-hands-heart-le-love-love-nature-Favim_com-52453In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life. (James 1:21, The Message)

I had coffee with a friend the other morning. We are both involved in a healing ministry (Intercessors of the Trinity), and as we were talking, he hesitantly but gently told me that he was sort of glad about what happened to me.

His statement didn’t shock me. I myself have often wondered: “How is my life different because I was kidnapped and raped? What would my life have been like if that didn’t happen to me, especially in relationship to God?”

I might have been a lukewarm Catholic who blocks off one hour on Sunday for God, fulfilling an obligation, or maybe a “spiritual” person who grabbed on to some new-age idea that I hoped would bring peace. Perhaps, worst of all, I would have blamed God and shut the door on Him forever.

No, instead what happened to me brought me to my knees in desperation – praying for joy in my life, for transformation in my marriage. And in the midst of that, I discovered the intimacy, relationship and healing He had planned for me all along. As I like to say, He orchestrates our biggest victory out of our deepest wound.

Last month, I wrote about how Jesus has rescued me – many times. But as my relationship with God has grown, as I’ve discarded the dirty “victim” garment and put on Joseph’s coat of many colors (as a much-loved child of the Father), I also am experiencing another dimension of His love and power – He’s showing me what it means to be a “salvation-garden”! (see James 1:21, The Message).

Just last week I had to stop by a game shop at the mall. As I waited for my son’s disc to be cleaned, the young man behind the counter asked how my day was going – “Great,” I said. “How about yours?”

“The same as always,” he said. I commented that working in a shop like this probably becomes pretty routine.

But he responded, “All days are like that.”

“They don’t have to be like that,” I said. “My days aren’t like that.” And he asked why.

So I told him how God brings excitement and healing into my life each day.

He pursued, “What makes you believe in God? Where is the proof?”

So I briefly told him my story – how God rescued me, how he shared my pain and healed me, and how he shows me His love every day. How he makes every day an adventure.

The young man listened, but kept coming back to the proof. Where is the proof? (As he apologized for offending me, to which I responded that I couldn’t be offended.)

Getting pulled into this kind of conversation is a little like being pulled out of your chair to dance the tango – with absolutely no practice!  If I had been a little more “prepared,” I could have made up a story about my son waiting somewhere for me. But it’s often in those moments when we are caught off-guard that the Holy Spirit takes over.

As he put the clean disc in a bag for me, I told him that I would pray for God to touch his life that day – in a way that he would know it had to be God.

So I left, but as I walked toward another store, I thought how there must be something in that young man’s spirit that wanted to believe. The desire God puts in our souls to have a relationship with our Creator. I asked the Lord to show me something that I could share.

I went back and told him: The Lord showed me what you were like as a little boy, playing and experimenting with so much joy. But then something happened that squashed your  playfulness and passion. God said he wants you to find that joy again, that passion for experimenting.

He looked like a deer caught in the headlights and asked, “How did you know that?” God gave me a “picture” in my mind, I said. “He really wants you to find that joy and passion again, and I will pray it happens for you.”

He said he would think about it.

That was a week ago. But now there’s a little voice telling me to go back and check in with him – to trust and risk another dance.

“Lord, did the seed You helped me to plant bear any fruit?”

Back to my friend’s statement – that he was glad about what happened to me – I know he was really saying that he was glad that I had allowed God to make a salvation-garden of my life.

My legacy will not be a garden ravaged, a victim who never achieved the joy and fruitfulness God intended – instead, it is becoming a salvation-garden, where the Gardener carefully nourishes areas of quiet stillness, lush growth, even places of wildness to be explored. But it’s a garden that continues to expand, overtaking weeds and deserts in my life, sending root systems deep into the soil, letting seeds drop and explode into life when the Master Gardener passes by.

Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. So she said, “Sir, did you carry him away? Tell me where you put him. Then I will go and get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him. Then she cried out in the Aramaic language, “Rabboni!” Rabboni means Teacher.” (John 20:14-16)

Mary Magdalene, who Jesus “resurrected” from shame, mistook Jesus as the gardener. I think that, standing there near the resurrection tomb, she saw one of Jesus’ many identities – that of the Gardener of our hearts. Whatever has happened to us, Jesus can turn our life into a salvation-garden.

“Lord, I invite You into the garden of my heart. Give me a passion to renew my mind by reading scripture. I am allowing my heart to be healed by letting You tend those areas where I still hang onto bitterness, or shame, or unforgiveness. I trust You are growing my heart into a salvation-garden.”

Imagine Him being with you. Imagine Him taking care of your heart as lovingly and carefully as the famous gardens at Versailles. And know that He wants your garden to be a masterpiece for all to marvel at and experience.

So I pray for you and me, that no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in, we turn to Jesus: “Rabboni, teach me. Rabboni, tend my heart.”