There is a beautiful garden in a town near us. It is a botanical garden with a school of horticulture on the premise, and the gardens are sculpted, managed and cared for by the school and its students.
The gardens are open to the public with no admission fee. In the past, you could also park at the gardens for free. Unfortunately, due to the proximity to other world-renown attractions, there is now there a small fee for parking.
We have been to these beautiful gardens often. It was one of our favourite places to visit when our boys were young. They would play for hours at the fountain in the rose garden or run at will on the lawns. There also used to be some exotic birds at the gardens, and this was another favourite spot for the boys, as we would sometimes bring grain to feed the peacocks, the grouse and the quail.
Our path took us back to this beautiful garden recently. We hadn’t intended to go, but the last time we went to mow the lawn, the lawn mower wouldn’t start. My wife called a repairman, but by Wednesday the grim facts were laid bare before us: The mower was … dead. My wife found the perfect mower for us on sale at a store in a nearby town, the same town that hosted the Botanical Gardens; and since we hate to make this trip to another town for just one thing, and since it had been at least a year since we had been to the Botanical Gardens, she packed a picnic and off we went. And we weren’t disappointed. Although the delicate spring flowers were already gone, the sturdier flowers of summer were in full bloom, and I praised God for His creation as I snapped pictures.
The gardens did look a bit different than what we remembered. The one thing that really stood out were the fences. Temporary chain-link fences were everywhere. Some of these were impassable, and some had a single gate. We could only guess at the reason for these fences, but we suspect that it had to do with garden regeneration. We entered a gate in one such area. It seemed that a hydrangea garden was in the works, for this was the dominating flower in this particular enclosed area. We enjoyed walking among them, but there was another gate at the other end of the hydrangea patch, and we made our way there. Unfortunately, this gate was locked. Oh well, we really didn’t mind wandering back through the hydrangeas to the gate where we had entered!
There was a fence around the rose garden as well. Again, there was an open gate at the main entrance, but most of the open areas where you could have previously walked into the garden were barricaded. We were headed back to our car by this time, as the allotted time we had prepaid to park was fast winding down, and the most direct path took us right through that rose garden. I don’t think either of us realized upon starting out that the far entrance was also gated; but when the gate swung open to our touch, we breathed a sigh of relief. We were now in no danger of our car being towed…
Things change over the years. We would like them to stay the same, but they don’t. In the case of the botanical gardens, the changes probably reflected new ideas. People would likely get bored at the gardens if there were never any changes. And although those barriers and gates that caused us to backtrack and got in the way of my pictures didn’t necessarily seem to be changes for the good, we have had plenty of experience with the realization that changes at this particular garden, as inconvenient or as ugly as they might seem, eventually lead to an even lovelier garden. We look forward to going back next year when their rehabilitation is complete.
Change is never fun. Thinking for a moment about the many changes that life throws our way — changes related to circumstance, aging, changing seasons of life, fluctuating interests, etc. — well sometimes these changes do lead to better things. As was the case with the Botanical gardens and all those fences and gates, however, life’s changes also don’t always appear to be for the good. In fact, it sometimes looks like our path forward is blocked, requiring that we retrace our steps; and the things that block our paths in life are not generally very pretty to look at!
God, in His wisdom, knew that change would be the norm for us here on Earth. He also knew that changes would potentially be stressful for His cherished creation, and He left us with a promise: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
This means that there are only two qualifiers for God to work all things for our good. The first qualifier is that we love Him; the second, that we are submitting to His purposes for us.
But wait. Aren’t these one and the same? If we truly love God, we will submit to His will! That doesn’t necessarily mean that what God works for us will be for our comfort or success; rather, He works the bad things into something that will further His purpose through us!
Remember that the fences and gates in the Botanical garden made our visit a little inconvenient. We had to understand that the changes weren’t actually about our convenience; rather, it was for the greater good of the garden, to work towards a greater purpose, a greater beauty. That is the meaning of Romans 8:28. The changes we go through may not be comfortable, and they may not even work for our own betterment; but they will work to accomplish God’s purpose. Let’s remember that His purposes are designed in His infinite wisdom, with His ultimate ability to see the “big picture”, and are crafted with His endless love for the greater good. At the end of the day, wouldn’t we all trade our own successes and comfort for His greater good?
Think about it!
If you decide to visit that Botanical Garden, remember that all those fences and gates are about further enhancing the garden’s beauty. And whatever it is that life is throwing your way right now, also remember that you can trust God to make it beautiful for those who love Him and seek to have His purposes fulfilled through us!
In His love,
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries