While visiting an elderly woman’s house early one summer morning, I couldn’t help but notice how well kept and manicured her garden was. Various vegetable and fruit bushes licked up the morning dew and colorful flowers dotted the landscape, each begging for the eye’s attention.
And while I stood in the yard taking in the colors and smells, a flagstone set into the ground caught my attention. On it was written these words, “One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” That sentence stuck with me and I later discovered that the phrase was part of a poem entitled “God’s Garden” by Dorothy Frances Gurney. The entire stanza reads “The kiss of the sun for pardon, The song of the birds for mirth, — One is nearer God’s heart in a garden Than anywhere else on earth.”
The reason this line from the poem stuck with me was because of how true it is. The sights and scents of a garden: the smell of wet soil, of flowers, and chlorophyll are potent enough to make us slow down for a few moments and remember the God who created all of this for our enjoyment. But the nearness to God’s heart does not end there. Being in a garden calls us back to the first garden that God planted: Eden. It was in Eden that humans were the nearest to God’s heart. However, the fall of humans into sin created a rift in that nearness. And it is in our backyard gardens or fields that we wonder what that first garden was like.
As we enter the Easter season and remember the last days of Jesus ministry on earth, our minds draw to another garden: Gethsemane. It was in the garden of Gethsemane that we see the weight of what Jesus would soon undergo, “And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death’”(Mark 14:34). What Jesus would soon face weighed on him heavily. Yet it was in the garden of Gethsemane that Jesus chose to suffer on our behalf and restore the nearness that was lost in the Garden of Eden. The blood that was shed on Calvary’s hill repaired the divide created at the fall, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13).
May we all remember the Passion of Jesus and continue to be drawn nearer to God’s heart.