CHRISTIAN VIEWPOINT: Take time to ‘be’ in God’s presence and be nurtured - a visit to Inverewe Gardens in Wester Ross
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Last week my wife Lorna and I visited the lovely Inverewe Gardens in Wester Ross, created from moorland in the decades following 1862, writes John Dempster.
The 20-acre garden, protected by woodland from off-shore storms and nurtured by the Gulf Stream’s warmth, is packed with 2500 exotic species of plants from all over the world.
Sitting in stillness beside the secluded pond we sensed deep peace – unsurprisingly, for gardens are liminal places where God meets with us.
Sohrab Ahmari’s new book The Unbroken Thread advocates rediscovering the wisdom of tradition. He quotes the 20th-century American rabbi Abraham Heschel for whom the Jewish Sabbath day was “the climax of living” – a day for food, rest, music, conversations about God. The Sabbath, according to Heschel was a guarantor of “inner liberty”, a day for relishing the precious gift of time.
And yet the old commandment to keep Sabbath is one many Christians don’t champion. There’s an idea around that since through friendship with Jesus we are united with the divine, every day can be a Sabbath as we entrust ourselves to God and thus find rest and peace. But in practice, how much of this peace do we actually experience in the busyness of our days?
Many of us are suffering because we do not make room for Sabbath. We shrink from the folk memory of grim Sundays with enforced attendance at church and padlocked play parks. Or we fill our Sundays with constant Christian activity, telling ourselves God will be pleased with our productiveness. Or we glory in freedom from the old restrictions and plunge into 24/7 living. Buying, selling, consuming, gaming, messaging. And we are exhausted.
It doesn’t have to be like this if we will only seek times of Sabbath when we choose simply “to be” in God’s presence in the inner garden of spirit. Yet how hard it is in our busyness to enter Sabbath! As a Christian, I believe Jesus inks the outline of a door on the impenetrable stonework surrounding the garden, opens it, ushers us in.
Ten gardeners work at Inverewe, watering, weeding, planting, pruning. God is the gardener of humankind – in countless varieties we flourish in the nurturing care of the divine Gulf Stream.
I love how in big gardens it’s customary to leave out a few tools purposefully among the beds as if to signify that the garden is forever a work in progress, and the gardener is not far away.
Throughout life there are reminders that God, though apparently absent, is near. And as we enjoy the peace of Sabbath, there are reminders for us too, of the work we are called to. Those tools wait for us.