Visiting a Real Secret Garden

We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows. – Robert Frost

Charlie and Cheryl live on a somewhat remote, rural property in Alabama where they do organic gardening, chickens and various permaculture projects—all on just 3 acres. They call their place “the Secret Garden.” On one of our past winter travels, I jumped all over the chance to get a tour.

I learned when they bought their property eight years ago, it was dilapidated. There was no garden. There was barely a house. Friends and family thought they were crazy for taking on such a huge project but now it’s flourishing with life! Organic life too, the way it was originally intended. For being late November, it was surprising to see so many things blooming and harvestable.

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Speaking of organic. As they were showing us around, we paused at a row of Bok Choy. (in the cabbage family) It was riddled with bug-chewed holes. My husband commented how most people wouldn’t eat imperfect vegetables like that. But informed people and cultures trust such imperfections. It’s a sign the food is ‘real.’

“A real insight into true theology!” Charlie responded.

“Oh, how so?” Our interest was piqued. We were early into our walk and didn’t know this man was a thinker along this line!

Charlie explained when the Bible talks about perfection, and “being perfect,” it doesn’t mean being flawless. (Matthew 5:48, for example) The word and idea behind it is maturity. This means, despite the often fatalistic mentality otherwise, “perfection” in this life is possible!

The beauty and simplicity of this truth really opened up to me. It’s in such a stark contrast to my experience with man’s religion—the type that makes spiritual life complicated. Their focus is on doing things to please God and be useful to Him. But nature teaches us growth and maturity comes when we simply “abide” in Christ’s life, and “let nature take its course.”  Artificial and toxic methods to being healthy and perfect (you can fill in the blank here with a list of things) is to tamper with, and frustrate the outworking of divine, natural life that comes by faith, and peacefully yielding to His life inside us.  

As for the “bruises, worm holes and dirt” of organic life? Nature teaches us to be okay with this, too. There is no fear of being disqualified. For those who abide in God’s garden in the midst of this world, getting a little dirty is part of what happens sometimes. This is not an excuse to sin. It’s just that our weaknesses and failures are more a sign of being real than anything! The most life-giving people are not those who hide their “battle scars,” but despite them, and even with them, go on to grow and mature as they were intended.

Life and life more abundant

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett

Another thing about this “secret garden” we toured. It had no sign out front. Charlie and Cheryl don’t seek visitors to their humble place, or even blog for that matter. But somehow people (like us) come to visit them through word-of-mouth.  Some are sick and want to learn how plants can help them. And people in the local area—a staunch bible belt region—are warming up to them, too. In fact, that became evident when we walked around the front yard. About a half-dozen cars drove by during this time span, and each one beeped and waved at Charlie! Charlie told us that every day he walks his land’s perimeter to mediate and pray. When a car passes by, he waves at them. After years of consistently doing this, all the locals started calling him “The Waving Man!”

I thought this was a whimsical example of how no matter how “rural” your life is from the hubbub of activity, simple expressions of love have rippling effects. Even in a “garden enclosed,” God’s life is powerful. It can’t help but overflow walls, spread to remote places, and ultimately win even the hardest of hearts. 

Here’s to “Secret Gardens,” and God’s amazing, abundant life!

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