The secret gardens are always the best ones.

On my walk back to my hotel in D.C. this evening, I come across such a spot – completely by accident, which is my usual method of discovery. It is just after 5:00 PM, so the streets are jammed with cars. On the sidewalks, a panoply of people stream toward subway stations.

I am one of the purposeful walkers tonight until I find myself in front of a dark-stoned castle. To the one side, a gate stands open. A sign invites me to enjoy the garden in the back – though it adds a set of clearly established rules of behavior. Turning aside, I wander in. I do have a love for urban oases, just a few sheltered steps from the winds of hurry.

And it is a sweet spot. Green. With ornate benches. I have a soft spot for benches, as well, though after sitting for a while on the convoluted ironwork, I wish I had a few more soft spots. These benches are made more for the eye than the backside.

But as I sit, I watch the determined people hurrying by, partially hidden by the trees. I wonder how many of them have the peace that comes from knowing one’s Creator. How many have been reshaped by Jesus to fit their intended purpose? How many can find that sweet retreat in the midst of the Kingdom of Hustle?

            Thus says the LORD:
                 “Stand by the roads, and look,
                         and ask for the ancient paths,
                 where the good way is; and walk in it,
                         and find rest for your souls.

            But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:16)

Why would we ever not choose a way that brings rest to our souls? And yet, on the long drive down today (I live three hours from D.C.), I had to will myself to pray. Sometimes, I have an almost physical resistance to coming before the Lord. Prayer can be hard.

I like how God puts it in the verse above: look and ask for the ancient paths. It does take effort to find the side street. Or the hidden garden behind the somber castle. Sometimes, like today, I have to ask the Lord to help me get started. Not just show me the path but give me a nudge in the right direction. Heck, more often than not, I need a loving shove.

As I sit on the bench, I realize that the iron has been wrought into vines, with grapes interspersed. It’s a good reminder. Walking with Jesus is a good way – one that leads to rest and abundance. And the lasting fruit we produce in our lives grow out of these times of connecting with him.

“Whoever abides in me and I in him,” Jesus said, “he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

Lord Jesus, forgive us for the times we resist you, when we see the path of connection with you and say, “We will not walk in it.” Thank you for your mercy and your patience. Your ancient way is good, and you bring us rest.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it!

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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