Alone in the Garden with God

Lent 2017 - Volume 2

“Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:36-39)

Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemane.

Typically, one thinks of a garden as a haven of refuge, a quiet and lovely place. I have never been to Gethsemane, but I have been to the gardens at Versailles and Giverny (the home and gardens of Claude Monet.) I have been to Shinjuku Gyoen in Tokyo and the Portland Rose Garden in Oregon. These places have their breathtakingly beautiful features.

Ornate musical fountains and vast verdant lawns at Versailles. Acres of colorful flowers, trees dropping their leaves toward reflective pools, and something I will never forget, the sweet fragrance of wisteria filling my nostrils as I climbed onto the bridge in Monet’s Japanese garden. The closest thing to that beautiful fragrance is brewing a cup of double bergamot earl gray tea at home. The floral scent penetrates my sinuses and takes me away, to the garden. In Japan, I sat under cherry blossoms at the Shinjuku Gyoen where thousands of cherry trees in many varieties bloom in spring with thousands of people enjoying hanami—a traditional family picnic under the cherry blossoms.

In Portland during summer, I can stroll through acres of rose bushes in bloom. Roses climbing on trellises or in a maze of color along the green hillside with the Rose City below providing a spectacular view.

For me, a garden, despite the number of people sharing it with me, is a lonely and lovely place. Perhaps it’s because of the example set by Jesus who often withdrew himself to a lonely (solitary) play to pray (See Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16) that I love me a garden. Quiet air, bird song, sun filtering through leaves, the colors and textures of nature blooming, the soft rustling of leaves in a breeze or the sloshing of water down hillsides and over rocks. All this resembles a place of peace and solitude, and a place of prayer. Charles Spurgeon wrote believers are to be “much in solitary prayer, especially in times of trial.”[1]

I have often sung the words, “Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget thine agony, lest I forget thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.”

By some historical tradition, not saying it’s accurate, Gethsemane was a garden that lay in the shadow of Calvary. This beautiful and peaceful garden was the place where Christ went to and chose to die – not physically, but to die to himself.

Matthew’s gospel states Jesus withdrew to Gethsemane, invited three of his closest disciples, and then further withdrew from them to be alone with God the Father. Here in this solitary place, he prayed the solitary prayer only He could utter, ““My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus was alone in the garden . . . or was He?

Recently, in a time of solitary prayer, I had the idea that Jesus was not alone in the garden, and not because the disciples were nearby or the Father’s presence was there or even the enemy taunting as seen in The Passion of the Christ film. I had the idea that Jesus was not alone in the garden because I was there with Him . . . and not just me, but also you and all of the humanity.

According to Hebrews 12:1-3:

“Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

From Gethsemane to Golgotha, Jesus endured the pain of the of the cross, despising the shame of the entire incident because of the joy that was set before Him. The joy on His mind was me and you. Jesus had a clear picture of His mission on earth – to redeem humanity – to secure eternity for me and for you.

For this joy, Jesus endured the terrible pain and undeserved shame. He counted this human suffering as nothing. One of the definitions of ‘despise’ in Merriam Websters dictionary is:  to regard as negligible, worthless, or distasteful. Negligible means: so small or unimportant or of so little consequence as to warrant little or no attention.

Pain, shame, discomfort, rejection, mockery, trial, condemnation, crucifixion was of so little consequence as to warrant little or no attention by Jesus in comparison with the joy, triumph, accomplishment He would achieve by His suffering, death and resurrection.

The thought of winning me and you, and the possibility of all of humanity, over to God and for eternity, caused Jesus to rise to His feet in the garden of Gethsemane, having uttered those words “Not as I will but as you will,” and then from the garden go through with His passion.

From the garden verses, Spurgeon also encourages believers to follow in Christ’s example with a humble prayer – He fell on his face; a filial prayer – He cried, Abba, Father; a persevering prayer – Jesus prayed three times; and a prayer of resignation – He yielded to what God would determine was for the best.

Jesus’ yield to God’s best made it possible for me and you to pray in these ways, to approach the throne of grace and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16) And not just in time of need, but in all times, and especially, in time of need.

I know I need something every day from God. Sometimes, it’s courage, strength, faith, ability to forgive, love, daily bread, repentance, obedience, a merciful heart and more. All is available to me in the garden with God. That’s where all resource for the Christian and living the Christian life begins.

I love me a garden because it’s my only hope. I hope you are enjoying a garden with God as well. To help, here’s what I do to get into the garden with God:

  • Get alone, in the house in the garden, in the car, in the closet, in the tub, on the treadmill – wherever – a quiet place w/no distractions – no phones or media
  • Humbly confess my frailty and failings, sometimes specific, sometimes not.
  • Ask God for His forgiveness and accept that He has forgiven me
  • Thank Him for His love and presence, accept that He loves me – even if I don’t like or love myself
  • Pray and sometimes weep, petition before Him for family, restoration, strength etc. Believe he hears my prayer and will answer for the best
  • Always, I feel His presence like a loving friend stroking my hair and warming my back – I receive His comfort
  • Move on with each day keeping Him in the forefront of my thinking – this is the most difficult thing to do – especially when reentering the busy daily work-a-day-world. But it is especially impossible for me, if I have not spent time in the garden with God.

Tell me, what do you do to get into the garden with God and what happens when you are there? Thanks for reading, being part of my community and sharing your thoughts.

Giverney Japanese brige

Wysteria over Japanese Garden Bridge at Giverny

All God’s best in the garden with God.


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