The Walled Garden
I opened my eyes. Swirling mist and vapors danced around my ankles, sending tendrils of their smoke to caress my fingers as they hung limp by my sides. The Man was still there.
The Man stood a little ways off, enveloped in a twisting net of fog. He beckoned me with his hand. He beckoned me, and I moved towards him.
My feet moved slowly, heavy weights trying to keep me from him, and so I fought harder. Doubt placed a hand on my head and ran his fingers through my hair, whispering like the mist, “This is a trap. Flee from that Man.” But I pushed on harder. My heart felt the lightest of all, and it flickered a pale, yet determined hope within me.
The Man turned and walked further into the cloud. I followed faster, struggling to keep up, to stay in sight of his broad back. I didn’t want to be left behind in the mist...
Moments seemed like hours, seconds felt like centuries as I wrestled with my sluggish feet. But all of my labors were fruitful as I stepped out of the mist, and onto soft grass. The silver blades of plant-life beneath my feet felt cold, as if they were thawing from a winter of frozen sleep. I noticed that my feet were bare, but hadn’t my shoes been on moments before? I turned and saw them behind me, nearly hidden by the haze of mist. I stooped to reclaim them, but a rich voice rang out in the silence. “Stop, take off your sandals, for this on which we stand is hallowed ground.”
The Man was before me with a thick iron key in his hand. His feet too, were bare. I thought no more of my shoes, but stepped forward with a swift stride. I was no longer encumbered by the clouds, and so I pressed ahead, with an eager palpitation of my heart.
I saw now that the Man stood before a wall of stone. A door materialized in the wall, for the world was still filled with a thin haze of fog through which I could not see. As I reached the Man, he smiled, and extended the key to me. “Take, and open the door.” He said. His voice was like a song, and its notes lingered in the quiet. I took the key and unlocked the door. But as I reached for the handle, I felt afraid.
“Courage, Dear One,” the Man said gently as he placed a hand on my shoulder. “Fear not, for I am with you.” The door slid open with a flash of beaming light, and I stepped forward, through the door.
The air was warmer, and the mist was nearly gone. I was in a garden. The walls were covered in green vines, clutching to the wall with such strength, they looked as if they were melded to the wall.
The Man moved towards the first of the many flowerbeds. “Are you ready to see why I have brought you here?” He took a dark stalk and pulled it up out of the earth. There were no roots, only a dry, crumbling clod of soil, encrusted around a small sphere. “Take it,” the Man said, handing me the orb.
I dared to speak. “What is it?”
“It is a heart,” he said, brushing away the dirt. “And I want you to see inside.” There was a flash of light, and the globe fell open like a puppet with a broken string. The heart was dirty inside and very dry.
“How can a plant flourish when it is so thirsty?” I asked.
“It can not.” The Man said sadly. “It must be bathed in holy light, and washed in living water, so that it may be clean...and prosperous.”
A gentle breeze blew, and the heart crumbled. Dust and ashes were whisked away into the air, and my hands were left empty. Suddenly, the Man placed a new heart in my hands.
This time, as it fell open, it was moist, but with red blood. Scars and cuts had torn away the lining of the heart, and it was worn so thin, that nearly none was left to keep it from breaking altogether.
“How can a plant flourish when it is filled with such pain?” I asked.
“It can not.” The Man said as a tear ran down his face. “Its wounds must be bound, and the scars must heal, so that it will not grow thin and break, but will be healed and comforted.”
A light rain fell, and the heart washed away. Blood, sweat and tears, melted away, and my hands were empty. But the Man placed a new heart in my hands.
This heart did not open like the others, it was heavy and solid. It would not break, even at the Man’s gentle touch.
“How can a plant flourish when it is so burdened?” I asked.
“It can not.” The man said with a sigh. “It must be broken, so that it may feel again.”
A bolt of lightning struck the heart, and it broke into a million pieces, falling away at my feet. Again, my hands were empty. But the Man placed a new heart in my hands.
This heart was green and tender. It opened slowly and gently, like a caress. It was green inside and it made tears run down my cheeks; it was so beautiful.
“Surely, this plant can live and prosper because it is so alive?” I asked.
“It can.” The Man said gently. “But it must be tended and nurtured, because it is so young.”
This heart he took from me himself and placed another in its stead. This heart was the most beautiful I had seen. It was filled with light and color, beauty and grace, and love.
“This plant is one that need not fear the winter, it does not doubt its gardener, and verily, it is the loveliest.” I said.
“This is the heart I desire all to have,” The Man said. “For only by a heart filled with love, filled with grace, filled with light and beauty, only then can a heart be prosperous and bountiful to its final days.”
“Please sir,” I asked as he took the heart from me, “What does my heart look like?”
The Man’s eyes were sad as he looked at me. “Do you truly desire to see your heart?”
He plucked another plant, a plant without flowers, and a plant with few leaves. He handed me the orb of my own heart. It fell open, and I wept.
It was a dark heart, moist with emotion, but filled with enough filth to prevent fruition. It was a heart with tender places, but hard stones of uncaring. There was little beauty, and I felt ashamed.
“Fear not, Dear One.” The Man said. “Your shame is the starting of a new heart. See?” He said pointing to a splash of white color on my dark heart. “Because you desire to have a heart of beauty, you have already begun to see it.”
“Help me, sir,” I cried. “Help me to have a heart of beauty, help me to have the heart of love.”
The Man smiled. “My Dear One, as you have asked, so it shall be. All hearts take time to ripen and grow beautiful, and in time, so shall yours.”
"You change your life by changing your heart." Max Lucado
"You change your life by changing your heart." Max Lucado