This morning I was sitting at my desk at the office. I was praying about some circumstances that looked pretty bleak. Then, out of the blue, I remembered a scene from my childhood.
When I was 11 years old, my father began to have trouble at work. His position was being cut back, a little at a time, and we all feared he'd eventually lose his job. Because of the drop in salary, we had already lost our house and were living in a rental.
The interesting part for me, this morning, was this: I thought that rented house was wonderful! Sunlight poured into my bedroom every day. Woods stretched out endlessly behind the place. Two new friends in the neighborhood owned horses they let me ride.
But, best of all, there was a warm, protected corner in between the garage and the place where the dining room jutted out. One day I decided I could plant a garden here. There was no money for plants or seeds, but I began staking my territory out. I scooped pathways through the bare, red Georgia clay next to the foundation of the house, and laid pebbles alongside the paths. I took a cut-off workbench that had been left behind, and placed it in the corner of my "garden." And then I sat there on my bench, envisioning how lovely my flowers were going to look. I'd put a rosebush here, maybe a gardenia plant there, and maybe a cluster of zinnias over there.
My parents and siblings looked out at me from the window, laughing and waving. Every once in a while, somebody would mention my garden and laugh. It became a family joke, because as long as we lived in that house - which turned out not to be very long - there were, of course, no flowers. Only hard, bare Georgia clay.
This morning as I sat in my office, I was tempted just a bit to hurt for that little girl. How naive she was, given the circumstances! But then I thought, what if, somehow, I could go back and hug her, and tell her that she would not always just be sitting there in the dust? That some 30 years later, she would have a beautiful garden? (Because I do!) What if I could tell her that for the past three years I have been reading flower catalogs and selecting seedlings, and that the first of these selections have now so fully grown together that I can barely walk among them in August to pull the weeds? Would that little girl be astonished?
Or ... would she smile and nod and say, "Oh, I knew that all along!"?
As I sit here in my adult world, the meaning of that child's vision for a garden is saying much to me about faith and hope and vision. Faith and hope and vision are not just characteristics for an innocent child - or for a naively optimistic adult. They are permanent residents in the human heart. I can have faith. I can hope. I can see.
A much-loved verse in my Bible explains that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). J. B. Phillips translates it, "Now faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see" ("The New Testament in Modern English").
The woman who started this newspaper in 1908, Mary Baker Eddy, is said to have loved gardens and flowers. She wrote in a book that's full of rich descriptions and metaphorical language: "Arctic regions, sunny tropics, giant hills, winged winds, mighty billows, verdant vales, festive flowers, and glorious heavens, - all point to Mind [God], the spiritual intelligence they reflect. The floral apostles are hieroglyphs of Deity" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 240).
Flowers are tangible evidence that life continues; that even out of the most frozen winter soil, new shoots will venture up in the spring. Today in my garden, next to the lovely stone bench that I now have (instead of that abandoned wooden workbench!), a plaque has nestled itself into the good, dark earth. It bears these words: "Hope never dies in a real gardener's heart."
Are you a gardener at heart? If so, then no matter what your circumstances may look like to you - or to other people - you're not just sitting in the dust. You're looking forward to flowers.
Read articles like this one in a magazine that comes out each week, the Christian Science Sentinel.