Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Parable of the Garden

Into your Garden of Eden comes a friend or relative whose actions and attitudes always seem both irritating and irritable.

I don't know the specifics, but I see you there. You smile at the beauty of your garden. You pull a fragrant rose toward you, inhale, close your eyes, smile, and let out a refreshing sigh. Your bare feet enjoy the tingle and texture of soft, green grass. The birds surround you with songs of joy and peace. The blue sky above you is an open canvas of heavenly color, brightening your garden and your heart.

Then the irritable one enters. He (or, perhaps she) tromps through one of your flower beds, oblivious to the beauty being destroyed beneath his calloused and heavy foot. Everywhere he goes within your garden, the insensitivity of his actions and the fumes from his mouth are like poison being sprayed upon each leaf, blade of grass, petal, and flower. The birds choke on the fumes. The sky coughs at the pollution of his attitude.

You do your best to help him see the beauty of the garden. I watch you as you tolerate his destructive spirit. Yet I see something growing inside you now. A root of bitterness has been planted in the soil of your heart.

It grows. It sprouts branches of hurt and flowers of resentment that eventually bear the fruit of anger. "Enough!" Before you realize it, you have shouted at this perpetrator of your Eden. That felt good!

It felt so good that the adrenalin kicks in with greater force. You mentally and emotionally wrap handcuffs around this beast, unworthy of your garden. You march him to the outer limits of your garden where you are surprised and thrilled to see a small, dark, dreary prison cell with bars.

The rusted prison door creaks as you open it. You toss the bearer of badness - that vile creature who hurt you so terribly and deeply for so long - into that prison cell and slam the door! You lock the door and remove the key.

Now, you can return to your garden of peace. Now, you can be mellow and relax in the pleasures of your beautiful garden without the scent or residue of his poison.

Hours pass. Days go by. Weeks. Months. Years. Throughout each passing second since you incarcerated the source of your displeasure, your peace and tranquility have faded bit by bit. A slight erosion has ensued. The pink in your pink roses isn't as pink. Clouds multiply and darken with each passing tick of his prison sentence. The birds, one by one, have found other gardens in which to sing. The grass is harder to walk on. It crackles beneath your weight.

"What is happening to my beautiful garden?" you shout. But you know. Or at least, you think you know. It is HIM! It is his fault. HE has ruined your garden!

Though you haven't visited his prison since the day you threw him in there, you stomp toward it ready to give him a piece of your mind. Just seeing him rotting in that dark, stale, small room will make you feel better.

But something has changed.

His prison doesn't resemble a prison at all. In fact, it looks more like a garden than your garden. His handcuffs are gone. He isn't emaciated or suffering or sorrowful. He hasn't changed at all. He seems oblivious to his prison sentence. It's as if he doesn't even know...or remember. He has continued on with his life as if nothing ever happened.

He turns to look at you. Only a glance. No emotion. No recognition. Nothing. He has been completely unaffected by these years under your control.

You grab the bars and shake them in anger. You want to go in there and destroy his world like he destroyed yours. You reach for the key that you've been wearing around your neck. It has rusted so bad that it crumbles in your hand.

He turns and looks down at the lock on the prison door. Your eyes follow his. There is no place for the key...on your side. Stunned, you reach around and feel that the keyhole is now on the outside. You turn around and find yourself in the prison.

Resentment chains us to the past. Forgiveness sets us free. Like the little boy who was in obvious pain sitting on a park bench. A passerby asked him what was wrong. He said, "I'm sitting on a bee."

"Why don't you get up then?" asked the stranger. "Because," answered the boy, "I figure I'm hurting him more than he's hurting me."

God's Word encourages us to forgive just as God, through Christ, has forgiven us. The Bible has nine different words for forgiveness. Four of them are the predominant ones. Of the four, two are found in the Old Testament and two in the New Testament.

1. Forgiveness covers over a wrong. Like a painter who makes a mistake on the canvas, but fixes it with a few creative strokes of the brush (Deuteronomy 21:8).

2. Forgiveness lifts a burden lifted from the shoulders (Psalm 32:5).

3. Forgiveness sends a note attached to the leg of a pigeon (1st John 1:9, Psalm 103:12).

4. Forgiveness grants as a favor (Ephesians 4:32, Luke 7:41-43).

Control is an illusion. The only one being controlled by unforgiveness is the one who will not let go. Though the hurt may be so deep and affect you so permanently that you may never be able to forget it, you can learn to forgive to the degree that your relationship with that person is no longer colored or tempered by that hurt.

There are no easy answers. Only choices. Which will you choose? Your garden or your prison? God can help restore your garden. He has already signed your release papers. But you have to will yourself to walk out of that prison and into your garden.

Take His hand and let Him lead you...
Perry Crisp

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