“A grateful heart a garden is
Where there is always room
For every lovely, Godlike grace
To come to perfect bloom.”
One of my early Sunday School teachers spent the whole period with us talking about how many things a grateful heart can be. The first one was this, a garden. How wonderful that the poet put a garden first, before a fortress or even a temple!
To me, a garden is the closest place to Heaven one can find on Earth. Naturalists might argue that the wilderness, an untouched area, a mountain or prairie, or the awesome formations of our Western United States national parks come closer to Heaven than our feeble attempts to create gardens can.
Why do I believe otherwise? Because a garden, any garden, includes its gardener. You and I count too. Remember the old story about the man who had begged permission of the owner of a corner lot to make it into a garden? Mr. Browne worked daily in that plot of land and produced a veritable bit of Heaven there. A rose trellis, daisies, petunias, sweet peas, and other lovely blossoming flowers graced the place, all fitted out with green shrubs, winding footpaths, a burbling fountain and stone benches. A woman who lived nearby watched the bare unkempt corner’s transformation as she’d take her daily walk. One day she saw Mr. Browne and said, “Oh, Mr. Browne, your garden is simply beautiful! Isn’t it marvelous what God can do?”
He leaned on his rake and replied, “Yes, dear lady, it is that.” Then he added, “But you should have seen the place when God had it all to Himself.”
I often think of the many gardens I’ve known, Grandmother’s flower beds, Daddy’s vegetable rows, Mother’s iris garden, my own climbing Cecil Brunner roses. And now I have two garden spots, the kitchen window with a sweet potato vine reaching up under the blinds, the lavender blue Campunella, the bamboo, African violet, and other small art objects like the crystal birds drinking from a crystal bowl that I bought in London, the crystal sailing vessel we found in the gift shop of our cruise ship, a small chunk of amethyst, and the ceramic rooster beside a stained glass tray. The crowning piece in my window garden is Tommy, my red canary. Right now he’s singing so beautifully I’d swear he knows what Love is!
My outside garden has hanging ivy, gardenias, roses, daisies, and other potted shrubs and flowers. These must all be kept within the borders of the cement floor, but they love their places amidst the tall trees and bushes along the creek. The main thing to remember about gardens is this: Don’t be a slave to the garden, just love it and keep it manageable. It will thank you by giving you a grateful heart!
So, what is this “grateful heart?” What grows there? Is it growing? Is it sometimes benignly neglected? Do some things die there? Yes, to all questions. But the beauty of it is, it’s mine. God didn’t do it all by Himself, though He did the most difficult part like giving life and color and variety. He knows that Life doesn't trap itself in its own artistry. It continues to live forever and sprout into view again in fresh form.
Humanity is like a garden. Some areas are cultivated and others wild. We love it all and cherish the thought of being a part of what’s growing here. The last verse of my hymn goes like this:
“Grant then, dear Father-Mother, God,
Whatever else befall,
This largess of a grateful heart
That loves and blesses all.”
Christian Science Hymnal #3