60: The Garden

60: The Garden

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Tough Times

The Garden

By Barbara Cueto

My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me. See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.”

~Song of Solomon 2:10-12

As I pulled up what seemed like the gazillionth weed from the overgrown garden and dug out yet another boulder, all at once it dawned on me why God had led me to do this. I’d never considered myself a horticulturalist or a gardener or even thought I had a green thumb. The only things I’d really ever been good at were singing, acting, and occasionally writing. And I excelled at making mistakes. My life had been pretty miserable, much like this garden I was weeding, full of ugly, uninvited growth that didn’t require much attention to spread. The dirt of my life hadn’t been very fertile except to yield huge harvests of wasted plant life — weeds. And there had been plenty of rocks. Like the ones before me, with only a sliver visible above the topsoil, I’d never guessed how far down under the earth I’d have to dig in order to pull them out.

But now I was in rehab. I was going to my daily meetings with the same dedication I’d given my addictions to alcohol and drugs for decades. During the few short years my husband and I had lived in this house, I’d never taken any interest in the long garden area that stretched the entire length of our back fence. Of course, all of the problem areas in my life were grossly neglected. This part of my house was indicative of the larger part of my whole existence. I had let everything go. All my potential had been overwhelmed and covered up by the bad things that had happened to me. There were no more gardens in my life, only long strips of once-hopeful ground laden with rich weeds of bad memories and pain, along with enormous stones of worthless indulgence and fruitless pursuit.

However, with God’s help, the necessary first steps toward freedom and wholeness were being forged, and I was doggedly taking every day one at a time. And certainly each new dawn brought a new and distinct challenge. Every hour that I was clean and sober was another mountain I’d summit. Naturally, all of my old compulsions would need to be replaced with new diversions. And that was how, one bright spring day, I looked out back and saw the possibility of a flowing garden in the barren plot.

Every day, I worked tirelessly, pulling up weed after weed and unearthing more rocks than I could have imagined hidden there. And I went to my recovery meetings and did the same — pulling out the old and replacing with the new. I could see now where every rock had taken up so much room in the garden that there was no place for the roots of the good plants to grow. But now my beautiful seedlings would have plenty of space to stretch and flourish.

I planted every imaginable flower of every shape, size, and color of the rainbow in my garden. And I grew, too. Even as the plants patiently, eventually awakened to reveal their new blooms, so did my soul. My neighbors, who had seen me laboring night and day, came to admire my handiwork. Likewise, I stood and watched, awestruck by the magnificent blossoms in the new garden God had planted in my heart.

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