This article was written in June 2011 after dealing with some difficult personal circumstances...
In early April, our little pet Schnauzer of 18 years, Lily, had to be put to sleep. In mid-April, my mother died suddenly. At about the same time, the house we had leased in the Landings since arriving in Savannah five years ago was to become the home of the owners, who were migrating down from the northeast to retire in this gated paradise.
In the course of spending time in California and being with family during the initial grieving of the loss of my mom, Elizabeth and I considered moving back to the west coast, where we had previously lived. We had about six weeks to figure out what to do.
As we contemplated what direction to take, we were presented with another possible lease, just three miles from where we have been living. During our first look at the property, we were immediately drawn to the backyard and the trees and plants; a tall, thriving hedge of foliage that lined the backyard boundary. Our own ‘Secret Garden’, we thought, a retreat within our retreat.
A few days passed, and our D-day was approaching fast. We were unsure whether to stay in Savannah where we have been blessed with some wonderful friendships, or head west; we now had three weeks to decide. We asked God to show us the way.
Another visit to the ‘Secret Garden House’ was in order. After peeking through the front windows, we walked into the backyard. We were rendered mute by what we saw. A large section of the hedge of plants had been either cut down or stripped entirely of any leaves or branches. The hedge of this refuge that would wall us off from any unwanted trespass from the outside world had been suddenly and inexplicably butchered. We were dumbfounded and at a complete loss to understand why someone would do such an irrational, unthinking thing.
We learned later that same day that the next-door neighbors were the culprits; idiots, actually, was our judgment of their unruly behavior. These were people we had never met, but now had no desire to in view of their heinous act.
As we weighed the options in the days that followed, our emotions were somewhat tempered but we were still distraught over the gall of these people and the prospect of living next to such insensitive, self-centered types. It was looking like getting out of Dodge was the way to go. And it looked like we might leave with a bad attitude.
Then, out of the blue, it came…The Epiphany, as Elizabeth termed it, while we pondered the encroachment to our Secret Garden. It was instantly crystal-clear. Yes, the hedge of plants and trees had been brought down, but something much more significant and important was in jeopardy of falling. It is another kind of “hedge”, mentioned in the Old Testament Book of Job as the invisible, spirit-world wall of protection, a ‘wall of defense’ that surrounds God’s people.
This ‘unseen’ hedge is formed around our lives as we, with right motives and attitudes seek God and are obedient to his revealed will. This hedge is compromised when we begin to wander from God’s path in neglect and as we develop critical, condemning attitudes toward others, and many times toward God!
By uprooting and moving back to California, we would’ve been taking the reins out of God’s hands and we would be the ones calling the shots. It is so easy to squander precious time and resources when we neglect to consult God in these important decisions in our lives. Compounding the problem would’ve been our negative attitude with regard to the trying circumstances we were dealing with. Resentment and bitterness are greasy, slimy enemies of our souls and easily slip in and wreak havoc when we fail to recognize their presence.
In a nutshell, we were being reminded to stay prayerful and submitted. We were to stay put in Savannah, guard our hearts against bad attitudes, and continue to build upon what God had been doing since we arrived five years ago.
You see, the real Secret Garden is in my heart and in your heart. It is where God plants, cultivates, and produces within us Christ’s likeness, and then through our lives, spreads the fragrance among the weak, weary and lost people that we encounter.
Since the move on June 1, the barn where we maintain our horse in Hardeeville, SC is closing its doors, so we’re scrambling to find a home for our fourteen hundred-pound loved-one. Also, Elizabeth was recently in the hospital for 4 days while having emergency Gall Bladder surgery. But you know what? We are not panicking. We are staying prayerful and humble before God, knowing He allows these things to build character and to increase our influence and authority in life.
I am thankful that God allowed us to see outwardly what the eyes of our hearts failed to see inwardly.