A number of years ago, a wonderful family in our church provided funds for the creation of a healing garden on the north side. It’s just a beautiful spot now. The trees and shrubs have matured so well. We have the sweetest gardeners here at West Hills who give such care to our gardens, and they have masterfully kept this one free of weeds. It’s a spot to sit and read, or pray, or contemplate. God always seems so close in a garden. I love to wonder at his creation in this one, and my gardens at home.
God has been good to us in Nebraska this year with rain. Even now, on the last day of September as we should be creeping into the bright colors and then browns of fall, the rain is coming down and everything is as green as that beautiful green of spring. In that healing garden today, it is no different. That beautiful soothing place is like an oasis and even in the rain it beckons me. “Come sit. Come pray. Come share what is on your heart with God. He’ll meet you right here.”
Okay, so it’s raining, so I didn’t go out there. But it didn’t stop me from taking the moment looking out the window to share with him that I am indeed in need of healing.
God bless Sr. Joyce Rupp today! Her devotion in “Fragments of Your Ancient Name” for September 30 reminded me that “I need relief from my burdens.” I need healing from their weight, and I can take that right to my Father:
Alleviate what bothers me
About certain aspects of my life.
Lighten the burdens I carry
In my concern for others’ woe.
Allay my fear of the future
And what it might bring to me.
Smooth the rough edges
That irritate my reckless mind.
Reduce the tension of my troubles
As I place greater trust in you.
She found inspiration for this ten-line prayer from something in the Qu’ran. And the significance of that for me today was something.
In a conversation today at lunch a question came up about one of those worries or burdens that I carry around with me. We were talking about ISIS/ISIL and what they are doing in their rampage through Syria and Iraq. One person wanted to know why we never hear from Muslims in our country speaking out against this perversion of their faith. An Egyptian pastor I know believes their ideology is the real Islam. Yet, he pointed out to me an Iraqi Shia imam who has been arrested in Iran, who preaches something very different from this. Others I have heard from in my travels tell me the same thing: this ideology is NOT the real Islam.
I worry that this ideology is wreaking havoc on people I know and love in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. It’s destroying their homes, their families, their way of life. They are fleeing the lands where their roots go back to the beginning of the church.
And here in this ten-line prayer, inspired by words from a tradition not my own, written by my first grade teacher, who discipled me as a child and inspires my faith even now fifty years later, is a reminder that God is so much bigger than I can imagine.
He sends the rain to reduce the tension of drought. He brings forth the greens of the earth which smooth and soothe the rough edges of my worries and burdens. He carries the weight of my concern for others who are suffering in places so far away. He invites me into that healing garden – even if it’s only a place in my mind because it’s raining outside – and invites my conversation with him.
In days like this, I really need that reminder of healing and where to find it. My heart is broken for a murdered sister. My heart aches with the pain this has brought to my family. And I know that there are countless others in this war torn world that feel this same brokenness in the loss of their family members. And we cry out for justice that is not in our hands, and over which we have no control.
I need to get on my knees and pray. I need to sit in the garden and talk to the healer. And I need to remember that he makes the rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous and it is not my job to decide who belongs in which group.
He tells me to love my enemies and to pray for them too.
During Lent in 2013, I spent those forty days with a Facebook group reading through the sermon on the mount every day. So each day I read through the entirety of those amazing words in the gospel of Matthew, chapters five, six and seven. Some days I settled on certain places and a poem was birthed.
Today, in the healing rain, I just wanted to share this one:
Love Your Enemies: Lent Day 35 Mathew 6:43-48
Ten years ago it started
With shock and awe and blood
An unfounded persecution
of a country misunderstood
They told us it was in response
To the terror of Nine Eleven
But the lies have since been exposed
Forgive us, God in heaven.
For by our laws the “they” is “we”
The phrase is “we the people”
And so we all must bear this stain
Of a war that is blatantly evil.
I pray for this forgiveness
And in the praying know
That across nine time zones there are those
Whose prayers arise also
The sun that rose today for me
Shines also in eastern desert
And when it rains from western skies
It can fall in the east as treasure.
They know these verses that we read
In fact, they heard them first!
May they be prompted to love their enemy
“We the people” who caused grievous hurt.
May we each pray for forgiveness from the other, and in the praying find healing for our broken lives and hearts.