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Issue No.117
17 December 2018

The wisdom of the garden

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Angela Harper guides us through the seasons in a reflection on coping with long-term difficulties

There are many spiritual seasons in our lives. Through them all, we may carry heavy situations that we've prayed about, but can't find our way through. Our prayers might not be answered in the way we desire, but we walk through our lives with God the creative gardener.

There's the hope of spring - the lighter days, a fresh breeze and gentle sun on our faces. We welcome new shoots, and spend time sitting in our gardens. If we are lonely, now is the time to sit with trusted friends, and let the rays of healing light reach us. During springtime, could we take another look at our heavy situations and see if we can learn any new perspectives to help guide our way through? While we think, we can watch with delight while the seeds burst through the soil as plants. In struggling, we can learn new abilities and grow whilst facing adversity.

Summer is a time of full flower. Our long-term burdens may still continue, but now we find courage and start believing in ourselves. We can find encouraging new opportunities to help us grow and flourish. The flowers can only be what they are - from this we learn not to wish we were someone else; we have to be ourselves! We realise from the flowers that when we are brave enough to unfurl our petals, and exist as we are meant to be, we can shine in the sun. This is when our relationships can become more genuine, more truthful, and now, with the wisdom you have learnt, it's time to go after beneficial opportunities. These can help you to grow a new confidence and develop a sureness in the person you are meant to be, like a flower in full bloom. 

As the reds, golds, and coppers flutter about us in autumn, it is time to reflect again. If our burdensome situations remain, let's look at what we have learnt throughout the year so far. Is it time to prune away those things which aren't serving you, which you may have been collecting? Are you carrying around any lies or any unkind criticisms of yourself? Do you keep churning these around as evidence that you've failed in some way? Let's look at where those lies came from - who said them, and why? Sometimes others can never see the person you are because they are clouded with their own issues and have never known love. This is when we should ask Jesus to help us see situations with a renewed clarity. When hard times shake us, it can feel as though we could be uprooted in the storm, but this is often when deeper roots grow to sustain us.

In winter we can shiver, but admire the garden's intention to re-grow next year. Winter shows us the harshness of the season, the starkness of the trees without their leaves. The summer flowers have died away. Perhaps our secret burden remains. The winter can feel dark, like an enclosed tunnel, but we have learnt wisdom from our walk. We can discover that, all this time, we have been walking with a friend, Jesus. New abilities, such as learning how to grow, how to flourish, and what to prune, have been formed in the seasons to help us overcome unwanted hindrances, ready for the next season. 

Life is not always orderly and the wisdom of the garden shows us to always expect the unexpected, whatever we are facing. It can make us aware of how God the creative gardener nurtures us. It takes time to be aware of the season in which we find ourselves but, from this, we can learn how to heal and grow.

Angela Harper is author of  Finding A Way Ahead: Spiritual signposts to healing and wholeness, published by Circle Books