(Note – you can find a complete set of these photographs at my Facebook page)
EDEN: I don’t believe it’s an accident that gardens are featured in so many pivotal moments in the biblical narrative. The story begins in the Garden of Eden; Jesus suffered the agony of choosing us in the Garden of Gethsemane, then ushered in the possibility of new creation from the Garden Tomb; the story comes full circle in Revelation 22 with a garden “for the healing of the nations” in the center of the City of Light.
Gardens represent fecundity, nurture, possibilities, new life, hope, promise, peace, refreshment (“nephesh” – נָ֫פֶשׁ), restoration. God placed the fledgling creation in Eden because God’s promise has always been that of the garden; God’s promise is new life; and that promise has been made perfect in Jesus.
There’s an idea that often crops up in my writing, and that I explore at some depth in The Unmaking of A Part-Time Christian: Our calling, our opportunity, our invitation as followers of The Way, is to constantly be moving forward… back to the garden.
Personally, I’m not a great gardener; I mow, I edge, I dig where instructed, I put mulch in the right places, I haul debris. But I don’t have the creative edge, or the green thumb necessary to tap into the latent life. But I am a good garden dweller; I am a practiced garden enjoyer.
PHOTO-SHOOT: So yesterday, when Rebekah asked me to do a “photo-shoot” for our church garden, I was able to do more than simply capture a few images, I was able to enter the garden as a participant in God’s gift of new life, and to actually tap into the soul of what it represents.
I believe a church is the best place for a beautiful garden because gardens stand as such a rich symbol of what God is up to in terms of recreation, promise, and new life. In fact, a garden is more than a symbol of spiritual fecundity, it can also serve as a vehicle for experiencing the presence and the nurture of God’s Spirit.
Wake Forest Presbyterian Church is in the business of celebrating, experiencing, and passing on new life in Christ. Our garden is just one of many venues where the spiritual and the physical worlds brush against each other in a practical interface.
In a sense, the garden is an outdoor sanctuary. At church we experience joy in worship together – but then there is also the regenerative solitude of private time with God.
With such a lot going on around our busy campus, seven days a week, it makes sense to step into the garden every once in a while and spend some intentional time in the presence of the Creator, the one whose very nature is mirrored in the evidence of beauty, of new life, and of promise.
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.