Finding the Secret Garden
When my sixth grade teacher assigned a book report, the class went to the library to find a book. One book on the shelf drew my attention: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Since secrets are mysterious and gardens are beautiful, I knew I had found the perfect book for my report.
A week later, I found myself crouched in the corner of my brother’s hospital room with machines beeping, an I.V. bag dripping, and white-coated people descending. Everyone I knew kept crying, and my book didn’t help. In the first chapter, the protagonist — a young girl named Mary — watches the plague sweep through her village and kill everyone in her family. She’s surrounded by death.
I was surrounded by it too. In the Intensive Care Unit, death hovered in every room. Several months later, my brother came home. To his new life in a wheelchair. And my book started to help. When Mary is taken to her uncle’s house, she discovers a secret garden. There, her wheelchair-bound cousin could walk again. Even though I knew the book was fiction, I just had to believe that something out there could make my brother walk again.
I had to find my own secret garden.
In real life, this hoped-for garden looked different. At first, it looked like local church prayer meetings and a trip to a Billy Graham Crusade. Then it looked like more doctors’ offices and the hope of new technology. Perhaps a surgery could fix everything?
Eventually, everyone accepted that no prayer meeting, no evangelist, no doctor, and no surgery could ever restore this brokenness. No magical garden existed. Hope died. And a wheelchair ramp was permanently built to our front door. I gave up on my book.
Years later, I started reading another Book. There’s a garden in this Story too.
While Jesus prays in this garden, His friends keep falling asleep and He keeps sweating blood. But it’s there, in this garden, I found the secret I’d been looking for my entire life.
Jesus pleads for God the Father to “take this cup.” To remove the suffering that awaits Him. Yet, God doesn’t answer His prayer. Just like He didn’t answer my prayer. Or my brother’s prayer. Or my dad’s. Or my mom’s. Or anyone else’s I knew.
Nevertheless, Jesus responds with these words: “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
Jesus submits to undeserved suffering. And it’s only through His submission that our brokenness is truly restored. The secret is in submission. It’s in praying these words: “Not as I will, but as you will.”
We can find this “secret garden” when we open God’s Word — when we submit our lives to God and choose to be obedient to the path He has before us.
With His Book in our hands, and His Word in our hearts, we can say, “Not as I will, but as you will.” Our suffering may not go away. Just like it didn’t for Christ. But because of Christ, suffering has an expiration date. We know this life is but a mist. Wholeness awaits. And it begins with a prayer in a garden.
Throughout the Week . . .
In Pastor Jeff’s message this weekend, he challenged us to enter into our own “garden” — that place where we submit to God’s will for our lives and pray the same prayer Jesus prayed, “Not as I will, but as you will.”
Have you prayed this prayer of submission in your own Garden of Gethsemane?