The words fall like a hammering blow. Critical. Insulting. Degrading.
I run from my bosss presence, stumble into the garden gate almost by accident, crouch in the corner and allow myself the luxury of tears. It isnt fair. I know I make mistakes but I try my best. I cant do anything right.
Years ago I first learned about this garden from a little booklet left on my car windshield. Run to the sacred garden in times of trouble. There, and only there, will you find sweet comfort and strength for the day. I visited the garden once or twice but it didnt seem to work for me. It seemed too simple. I was busy.
But today Ill do anything to ease this agony of spirit. Im desperate. A single bloom catches my eye from the corner of the garden. In lush green foliage hangs a single blue blossom, beautiful beyond belief in its brilliant simplicity. My eyes lock on it. I hold my breath in wonder, and then sniff a fragrance so heady that I sink to my knees.
This silken trumpet touches me like nothing else. The beauty. The fragrance. The calming smoothness of its petals. Peace sooths my wounded spirit. Then sudden and unexpected strength surges through my veins and gives me grace to face my employer and try again.
The next morning I hurry to the garden before work. Breathless, I hardly dare believe it might happen again. Today, three flowers group as a periwinkle trio on top of the garden wall. In silence, they trumpet to me, call me closer. Just a tiny splash of blue among the verdant leaves, hardly noticeable until I take the time to look. I run my fingers along their silky petals and a sweet perfume, strong enough to cover the stench of suffering, lifts me to a height above my circumstances. I look down upon my troubled world; strength flows through my body and reaches out to others toiling below me. I gather it into my spirit, inhale the essence of the blooms, and face my day.
The next day seven blue bells await me. Joy vibrates through my being. Funny, nothing has changed. My earthly master remains cruel and hard to please. I have yet to accomplish the difficult tasks I must do. But somehow I feel strength to overcome.
One morning I oversleep and rush to work without my time in the garden. This day will never end. Every task is clumsy. Every burden twice as heavy. I struggle to keep back the tears, promise myself it will never happen again. I rush to the garden as soon as I am released from work but the blooms are withered, limp on the vines. I press my nose to their softness and search for their scent, breathe in the fragrance though it is fainter than usual, and fewer blooms await me. Somehow I garner enough strength to start again.
It is my morning ritual. I hurry through breakfast and rush to the garden to absorb the silent message. It seems every day there are more blooms than the day before, every day more strength for the taking. I dare not miss a single day, fearing the darkness of this world might overwhelm me. I need the strength. Another servant chides me for using a crutch to get through life, accuses me of being weak and spineless. I have no answer, for it is true.
When the hurricane hits, I flee to the garden. It seems foolish to go to such a place during the height of natures fury, but Ive learned it is my only shelter. As the wind whips my hair and the rain pelts my face, I leap into the green foliage of my special flowers, bury myself completely in the leaves. The wind and rain are locked outside. In this holy place, I find the eye of the storm.
I gasp at the layers and layers of bell-shaped flowers in every color of the spectrum. Their heady fragrance floods me with laughter and strength like I have never known. All along I thought there were only scattered blooms. While these few were enough to get me through each day, I never dreamed there were more to be found beneath the surface. I stroke the purple, yellow, and pink petals, laughing and crying all at once. Such glory. Such color. Such fragrance. I feel compassion for the entire world, for my employer, for the very storm itself.
I open my mouth and touch my tongue to the delicious colors. Canary yellow tastes like courage, the lavender of godly sorrow, and the magenta flavors love. I devour them, consume them, and feel their strength and wisdom blossom in my heart, bursting my perceptions and broadening my mind to new possibilities.
When I finally leave the garden, the storm is over. A few drops of rain drip from a willow branch along my path. I skirt a puddle and step over a fallen tree limb. The world is in disarray. I think of those who didnt know about the garden, who didnt know to seek shelter in its flowery bower.
Why didnt I tell them? There is room for all beneath the green leaves where the colorful trumpets supply grace for every need.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-6