In the book I’m currently reading, “Hearing from God,” Dallas Willard quotes part of the hymn ‘In the Garden.’
He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
When I read these lines, I am a little boy again, listening to the radio on the lap of my father, right before bedtime. A station in Zarephath, New Jersey played classic hymns from eight to nine. This song was my dad’s favorite. I knew it because he would shift a little, sit up straighter, and bring me in tighter. In his face was that transfixed stare into nothing but sound, trying to squeeze substance from syllables and melody, willing it to enter him. All of this from a man who at that time was not a follower of Jesus, and whose son heard the song’s drippy melody, but didn’t know the Man it spoke of.
“I come to the garden alone…” So the song begins, and I wonder at times if I’ve lost the joy of tarrying there, in that garden where He waits. In the hustle of rearing kids and chasing priorities, do I forget the invitation, ‘come?’ Even for a moment if I step into that place, it will be the sane pushed into the whirlwind, which will allow me to stay the course.
“Come away fevered brow, eyes that dart from this to that, like a feral cat, come away and be whole again. The day divides by labor, by love, by listless harrowing work, and tiredness invades your mind. Come away, I will remove the weight, mend spirit, and let joy pirouette again. Come away, the sounds of crisis, the eyes of fear, the words of anger shake you like a pear tree in the wind, and you drop good fruit. Come away to a place where wind does not touch, and fruit drops in its time, to die with dignity and multiply, to become your dreams. Come away, I want to say a few things before you close your eyes; they have seen so much that dulls your vision, and constricts your heart. I want them to see what I have promised, what I have planted, what I put into hearts at rest…rest like a baby at ease, or a tired man’s slump on a creaky porch, smiles creased on both lips, to show a kind of belief, though brief, of someone caring, caressing; the one a whole life ahead, the other THE life just ahead. Come away, come away and just be. The predictions, the diagnosis’ , worries and problems are mine to carry. And think of it, I carry death, too. Come away to that embrace, listen to the song sung over you, rest upon the chest of your God, feel his heart thumping, that heart which was broken, scourged, shamed and damned, so that all sin now entangled, would be disabled, and taken away. Listen to the song in the garden, listen for that Someone, who sings what your ears can hardly believe, it’s your favorite one, forever your favorite one. Come away, the table is set, the wine is poured, the meal at ready, lacking only one thing….you!”
Where do you go to tarry with Him?