The Gardener

As of late, I’ve returned to my first love in writing: story-telling. As much as I enjoy my traditional blog posts, as there is a narrative component, it feels as if I need to know all the answers. However, with fiction writing, I have the opportunity to ask the questions. In all my questioning, I hope you enjoy this allegory of my heart.

“Yikes! These thorns are getting so bad!” Dinah quickly pulled her hand back from the entanglement in the bed she was working in.

“Thorns are never comfortable,” said the Gardener, “I would know…”

Dinah popped her head up over the old brick wall, “What was that?”

“Thorns are terrible,” the Gardener replied with compassion in his voice.

“So gross! I can’t believe I let this bed get so bad!”

“You know, greener things would grow if we took that wall down, Dinah.”

Throwing herself back down onto the blanket under her knees, “You always say that but it’s so much work, it’s not worth it. The plants aren’t always greener on the other side...”

“Say what you want, Dinah, dear, but you know that wall needs to come down, pulling those weeds isn’t the only part of the solution.”

Dinah didn’t understand what the big deal was, the garden was so beautiful. Encapsulated by big safe oaks and pines were beds of an array of herbs and sweet-smelling flowers. Pearly mushroom rings danced between the olive grove and grape vines. Bees hummed through the garden, it was simply paradise to them. It was paradise to Dinah, too. She had been coming here since she could remember, the Gardener had always welcomed her whimsical love for the plants. He taught her to cultivate the good and prune the bad.

“Sir, what do you think about getting some more help around here?” She wiped her brow, her gloved hand full of sprigs of thorns.

“Do you not trust me to take care of it?” The Gardener asked, not glancing up from tending to the grapes. It was almost time to harvest them. Each year, he made wine from them, the sweetest drink you could ever taste.

“It’s not that I don’t trust you…” Dinah trailed off, watching him carefully testing each branch, calculating how much fruit it had produced. She really did trust him to take care of things, he knew what he was doing, “It’s that I don’t trust myself. I can’t take this ugly wall down!”

He looked up from the grapes and straight into Dinah’s blue eyes, “We can take the wall down together.” She was never sure what color the Gardener’s eyes were, sometimes they looked brown like the steadfast tree trunks that circled the garden, sometimes green, like the olive leaves, gentle and comforting, but now, they were blue, like her own, full of mercy, “I’d be happy to help.”

Dinah wasn’t fully sure why, but she was so relieved to have that wall come down. Tears began to well up in her eyes, but before they could drop down her cheeks she said, “Okay, great! Thank you, sir. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“You know I’ll be here.

Tomorrow came and Dinah was nowhere to be found. And the next day, she didn’t come to the garden. In fact, several days passed with her absence. The Gardener came each morning, tilling and weeding, but the thorny corner remained the same, more unwanted growth came. Fall began to come, but there was very little fruit to harvest, without Dinah having cultivated the fruit. When winter rolled around, the garden didn’t seem as full of life, hiding from the bitter chill, the Gardener still came each day, even if he just sat in within the encirclement of trees.

Through the seemingly lifeless garden, Dinah emerged. The sky was grey, the sun was nowhere to be seen. There was no snow blanketing the earth in purity, only the ghosts of what had been in the previous seasons. She glanced over the beds, remembering the joyful flowers and tranquil herbs. Seeing the sky through the leafless trees was eerie to her eyes, it brought chills down her spine. Death crunching beneath her feet, the Gardener heard her approach, though he knew she was coming.

“Sir?” She inquired, her voice showing itself warmer than the winter air, “I’m sorry I haven’t been coming lately.” Shame covered her tone and body language, “I shouldn’t even be here—you should only have people who need to be here.”

The Gardener stood up. He was tall, but not intimidating, broad, but not overpowering. He walked over to Dinah, not with pride, but with humility, “My friend, let me tell you a story about a garden a lot like this one.”

Peace came over her when he touched her hand. They sat down on a marble bench, one they had sat on before, “In this garden were all the beauty of heaven and earth. There were two people who lived there, along with the Master Gardener, a husband and wife. They were told not to eat of one tree, and one tree alone. But one day, a snake crept in to the paradise garden, telling the woman to eat of it, convincing her the Head Gardener wanted to her to be hurt by not eating of the fruit of this tree. She listened to the snake, not holding fast to the Head Gardener she knew and loved. Both the wife and her husband ate of the tree, and had to be cast out of the garden, for the Head Gardener could not be with them once they betrayed him.”

Dinah began to weep. She feared her neglecting the both the Gardener and the garden, she was going to be told to leave and never come back. She thought about all of those lonely fall days, when the wind was cold. She dreaded the hard work of removing that wall. She let other things, easier things, things that didn’t require touching thorns, stand between her and the garden. Now she had lost her chance to make the change. Her apology was not good enough. I have failed the Gardener and I have failed myself, she thought.

“Dinah, why are you crying?” The Gardener asked gently, knowing already the fear in her eyes.

Through much sniffling she pressed past her own emotions, “What happened to the man and woman in the story?”

“The Head Gardener sent another after him, one to bring the beauty of the garden back to those who had not listened Dinah, I am that Gardener.”

Confusion and relief were now the cause of the tears streaming down her cheeks. Being hot and salty, they stung her chapped, red skin, but comforted her in the cold nonetheless. She blurted her question without much thought, but a lot of emotion, “What does this mean?”

A smile grew from under his dark facial hair, “It means, you are welcome to the garden anytime. It means I want you here. I’ve been waiting on you to come back. I’ve missed you being in my presence. We have work to do, and it will be harder to do it in the winter, but just as I told you, I’d be happy to help. You need only to ask, I am here.”

“But…I left. I didn’t betray you like the woman and her husband did…but I left when you wanted to help me…”

“And you came back. You were always going to come back. I called you here long ago, I paid the price so that you could be in the garden. Together we labored and toiled for its beauty to grow.”

Letting herself become frustrated at the state of the garden she shouted, “But look at it now! It’s all dead because of me! You can’t really mean you want me to come back after I killed everything!”

Never raising his voice, the Gardener responded gently, “The garden is not dead, it is only sleeping. Spring will come again, and life will be apparent. Winter is a hard time, but this dormancy is not by your doing.”

“The wall is still up, the thorns have grown so much. That’s my fault,” Dinah was very suspicious of the grace she appeared to be receiving, and responded defensively, not knowing why, but in her heart, she was testing him.

“We could have removed the wall together in an easier season, that you are right about. But now, is a fine enough time to take it down completely. Once it’s down, we can plant something there together. How does that sound?”

The warmth of the Gardener melted Dinah’s heart and the frost on the brown grass beneath them, “What will we plant?” she inquired.

“How about a fig tree? With lots of shade for us to sit under together?”

“That sounds perfect.”

Inspired by: John 1:47-51, 15:1-17, 20:15-18; Romans 8:30-39