The quiet place for the restless heart
Who are you when no one’s looking?
How are you like when you’re all alone?
Where would you go if no one dictated so?
These are the very questions that have been ringing in my head the past three weeks.
It might sound depressive, but when I found within me the honest answers to these questions, I instinctively knew that my heart was tangled up in a place of discomfort — for reasons I could not pin-point or identify. It has been disconcerting, to say the least.
I was left puzzled because I had no reason to be unhappy. Just a month ago, I got married to the man I’ve journeyed with for the past six years and we spent our honeymoon in beautiful Maldives!
However, as I paused to reflect, I realised that certain circumstances had affected me more than I thought. Upon returning to work (in the youth ministry of my local church) after my honeymoon, I was met with a series of intense conversations with a few youths, which meant unexpected late nights ministering as they often approached me unannounced. This often led to tears before the Father, as I sought for direction, intervention, and grace.
Before I knew it, my inner man was surrounded by dark clouds most of the time — heavy from all that I had heard from the young, struggling lives. My physical body was not at rest; my mind was on auto-pilot work-mode each night; my emotions were riding rollercoasters; my heart aching for the Lord to bring restoration and breakthrough.
It came to a point where I asked, “God, where is my safe place? Where can I go to get away?” I recognised that it was only in getting away with Him that my heart could be put at ease and rest in the midst of seeming “storms.” With a gentle, quiet whisper, the Lord continually replied, “A garden enclosed.”
His response is written in Song of Solomon 4:12 (NKJV). Song of Solomon 4 is an allegory of a bride and groom in their pursuit and marriage, which reflects God’s unending pursuit of our hearts. The beloved describes the Shulamite woman using the analogy of a garden enclosed; a spring shut up; a fountain sealed, which suggests privacy, separation, and sacredness — much like the posture and attitude of our hearts that the Lord desires. We were created to be reserved for the Lord; to be a people devoted unto Him.
This also reminded me of how God had “planted a garden in Eden,” and “there He put the man whom He had formed (Genesis 2:8).” As I spent time in prayer and gave room for His word to speak to me specifically about this “enclosed garden,” He highlighted three key actions required:
Tend to your garden
Tending refers to us paying attention, watching over, or to apply ourselves to the care of something. Adam was given the same command in Genesis 2:15 (NKJV), “Then the Lord took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.” While Adam was given a literal garden to tend, we each have a figurative garden (i.e. our hearts) to tend!
In our life’s busyness and haste, we often forget about spending time with God in our garden, because it doesn’t always appear like a productive activity. To a generation that has been won over by technology, it is far more difficult to put down our smart phones, tablets, laptops, and computers; than to pick up our Bibles, journals, or guitars. This is perhaps strangely mirrored in how most of us do not get our hands dirty with gardening anymore because it is far easier to keep air plants alive, as the latter don’t require much attention.
The Father is always beckoning us to care for our garden. Give attention to the hidden places of your heart, and reserve your garden for the Lord for the fact that you have the privilege to commune with God Himself.
Plough your garden
Each garden requires ploughing and maintenance, without which the garden becomes a desolate mass (and mess). Ploughing is an implement used to cut, lift, and turn over soil. It often involves labour, investment of resources, and intentionality.
Without ploughing (turning over the upper layer of soil), fresh nutrients are unable to nourish the new seeds to grow. Furthermore, when the old weeds and previous crops are not buried, causing them to potentially choke up or hinder new seedlings from growing healthily.
Similarly, our gardens must go through the process of ploughing in order for all that is unhealthy to be weeded out, and for healthy seeds to grow in the Lord. There are no short cuts with ploughing, and the greatest enemy of ploughing is procrastination. Once we begin to “put God off,” we’ll inevitably fall into a cycle of perpetually “putting Him off” for the longer term. It’s no wonder we sometimes wonder, “Why can’t I feel God? Why does God feel absent?”
Personally, with all that I have been experiencing in the recent few weeks, ploughing my garden meant choosing to stay with the mess. It meant acknowledging that I had some cleaning up, seeding, and watering to do; before I can see growth in my garden again. Perhaps, ploughing may also mean letting go of weeds which have been choking me, such as releasing forgiveness where required.
For all of us, being on earth means that it is a life-long process of ploughing our garden — to constantly soften the ground so that it doesn’t become hardened towards God. In doing so, we consistently recognise and confess that we are but unwhole beings, in need of a whole Saviour.
Love your garden
In the midst of writing this article, a dear mentor reminded me in a conversation we had, “Spend time with God at the end of each day so that the junk and worries of each day will not have a hold on your heart.” Loving my garden meant loving time spent with the Lord, and allowing Him to love me as I “give all (my) worries and cares to God for He cares for (me) [1 Peter 5:7, NLT].”
I am convinced that there is no other place more important than your personal secret place with the Lord. Ryan Kondo aptly sang in his song “I Will Wait”:
Jesus, the lover of my soul,
The one who’s in control, when all the world fails me
Jesus, the one who draws me near,
Whose voice I long to hear, the One who is in me
On You who calms the seas;
On You who loves to speak to me;
On You, I will wait patiently
I will wait, wait to hear Your voice
in the midst of this noise
You’re all I want to hear, God
I will wait, for the silence to break
You’re all I want to hear, God!
At the end of each day, who has your heart? If you are holding your own heart, you’re in the wrong hands. Take it from one who has had her own way the past three weeks and eventually caved in to Jesus. There is no one you can trust more than Christ alone.
If you’ve been feeling down and out, without purpose or vision, get up-close and personal with God. Hide away with Him in your garden enclosed!