Cooperating with the Gardener

A few months ago I decided to create a playlist on Spotify called “For praying.” It’s a collection of songs that I’ve found prepare my heart for reflection and prayer, everything from contemporary songs by Matt Maher and Tenth Avenue North to Gregorian chant to the Taize choir. It’s easier for me to pray when I’m in the right frame of mind and heart, and I’ve found that music is a great way to create that space within me. If you’ve ever struggled with getting started in prayer or feeling scattered or distracted, try playing a few minutes of music before you start. It might help!

I always find myself drawn to one song on that playlist more than the others when I’m getting ready to pray —“Garden” by Matt Maher. Its simple refrain is a beautiful prayer in and of itself, but I’ve found a lot of meaning in it recently:

“You walk with me
You never leave
You’re making my heart a garden”

Honesty time: I struggle with letting go of certain vices and practicing certain virtues. And I get impatient with myself because of it. I think that I *should* have mastered this, that, or the other virtue by now, and I have a hard time giving myself grace and mercy for my shortcomings.

Thankfully, blessedly, the way we often see ourselves is not the way God sees us. God doesn’t look at our struggles and think that we need to overcome them by some certain arbitrary deadline or mile marker. We often want to go fast and to progress quickly in our moral and spiritual life, but going at our preferred pace usually only leaves us broken-hearted and empty-handed. Think of the image that Matt Maher offers of a garden: if we tend our garden too quickly and carelessly—if we water it too much or too little, if we over- or under-prune and trim, if we pick or uproot too quickly—it won’t produce much good fruit. No, gardens require patience, diligence, and a gentle hand. So do our hearts, if we want to see them change and become capable of bearing fruit.

But it’s not something that we can do on our own.

You’re making my heart a garden,” sings Maher.

God does the work and He does it in His own time. It’s hard to give up control like that—we want to bear fruit and to see change and we want it NOW! But we must cooperate with God’s timeline and trust that everything we desire will come to us in due time. Even the things that we don’t think it makes sense to wait for.

“There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens…
A time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant…”

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-2)

Think about the things you need as you live the Christian life—humility, patience, trust, whatever it might be. Have you been frustrated by how slowly it seems to be taking root in your heart? Give that desire and that frustration to God. He knows what you need, and He’ll give it to you. Trust Him, His ways, His mercy, and His timing.