At the lake that I love so much there is a particularly beautiful spot I always visit in the Spring.
It is called the Punch bowl and it sits within a section of the lake called the Valley Gardens. Imagine a bright green, grassy floor surrounded on three sides by gentle hills that are overflowing with vivid azaleas and rhododendrons in all shades of pink and purple, red and orange and white. The colours are so bright they almost look artificial against the grass and the blue sky. The blossoms peak around early May, depending on the weather, and for as long as I can remember it has signalled to me the beginning of the British summer.
Two years ago some very worrying signs appeared, warning us that a renovation plan was about to start on the Punch Bowl that would take at least 5 years. And sure enough, as soon as the flowers had finished blooming, the area was cordoned off and work began.
I had all but forgotten about the signs when my husband and I happened to walk past the area last spring. The cordon was still in place but we peeked down into the valley and were shocked at what we saw. Large trees that were damaged had been completely removed and the azaleas and rhododendrons were drastically, even brutally cut back. The Valley was bare, colourless, lifeless. I wanted to cry.
I googled the Garden’s website where I read reassurances that there was a careful plan and that the area would return to its former glory. But, I struggled to believe it could ever really recover.
Then, last night my husband suggested we walk around the lake. It was late afternoon and the park was emptying out of visitors as the weather turned cloudy and cool. We found ourselves at the far end of the lake near the Punch bowl so we had another peek.
Mr Head Garderner, I am sorry I ever doubted you!
Even just two years into the renovation plan, my little spot of heaven is already fighting back. The bushes that had been so harshly pruned are small but the colours are as bright as ever, even on a dull day. They are already benefitting from the improved drainage and space and they are flourishing.
‘Wow,’ I said to my husband, ‘these gardeners really know what they are doing!’
And immediately a still small voice pricked my heart.
Because I have been experiencing some pruning of my own. It is painful and ugly. It has left bare patches in my life and in my soul. The process has felt rather brutal at times.
But I see now that it is not.
It is the work of the Divine Gardener, the Good Shepherd of my soul who loves me more than I know.
His pruning is perfect. He is never, ever trigger-happy with garden tools. He doesn’t want to damage, He wants to heal. His aim is restoration, not ruin.
But, He is a Gardener. And, gardeners think in the long term. They think in seasons, even years, planning and planting, seeding and weeding. It is laborious and time-consuming. Because beautiful projects always are.
So, I have a choice today. I can question God’s workings in my life or I can trust the gardener’s plan. It is okay to cry and grieve over what has been pruned but then it is time to peek over the fence with faith-filled eyes and expect to see the returning blossoms of His goodness where He has carefully tended my life.
Because I am always in good hands. My God is gentle and careful and He is kind.
And, He loves me enough to renovate and restore until every corner of my life is beautiful.