In the center of my heart, there is a garden. At the center of this garden is a throne for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, King and Center of All Hearts. And this center is the core of my prayer. In restful seasons, it’s easy to find time to visit Him there, to continue returning to Him, to let Him do the work of maintaining my heart, my priorities. To keep Him at the center.
I often tell Him that it’s good that He should reign over the garden of my heart because He knows better than anyone how real-life plants begin to wilt at the very prospect of being in my care.
The garden is a place of prayer. The first time I ever explored this garden, it was a little space inside the walls of a small fortress. I offered Our Blessed Mother my prayers in the form of flowers, and she took the seeds from those flowers and gave them to Jesus and St. Joseph. They did all the planting. But the more I prayed, the more they sowed, and the more the garden grew until it became a whole castle full of spiritual bouquets. Jesus is the light that nourishes these plants. He, too, is the Source of the river that waters them.
But I often forget that He is the King of this garden and that I am the most amateur of gardeners. There’s little for me to do except to go out into the wounded world and come back with more prayers, more intentions to be prayed for. Because in this garden, as in all things, it is Our Lord Himself who does all the hard work on my behalf.
As long as I let Him.
When the work of maintaining this garden begins to feel heavy and burdensome, it’s most often because I’m not allowing Him to do the work. I try to prune when I have no idea when, how, or why. I want to pick and eat a fruit before it’s ready. I want to share a bouquet with a friend who needs something beautiful, but the flowers I have in mind haven’t yet bloomed. It’s a struggle to do the work of the present moment, to be at peace with what the garden is, especially when I want it to be something bigger, grander, different.
My perspective of my own needs is flawed. God knows better than I do. And sometimes, I try to take up crosses that aren’t mine to bear. When I see a family member struggling with pain I can’t take away from them. When I see a friend yearning for their vocation while God is asking them to wait.
Sometimes, though, I find myself with overlapping responsibilities. Several people need me, or need things from me, immediately. Prayers or work or a listening ear or time or help after surgery. Where do I begin? How do I begin? And the checklist of things that need to get done gets so long and so out of order that I end up in this mindset of “What gets done gets done.”
But it takes discernment, and prayer, to discover what needs to be done. Lord, what is the immediate next thing You desire for me? Where do you want me at the present moment?
His answer lately has been, “Continue becoming.”
Continue becoming. Continue blooming. Continue returning to the what is most important. Jesus, King and Center of All Hearts. My “task” has been to not focus on “doing” but to rest in being in His Heart, even while He rules at the center of mine. Rest and work are somehow at one in Him. But there is a time for pulling weeds (even when the weeds look pretty), a time for sowing seeds, and a time for strolling in the beauty of the garden, appreciating the gifts I’ve received thus far.
While outside the retreat of this garden, the busy, bustling world fills us with distraction, tension, and division, inside this garden is a space to be with God in solitude, in peace. If I am not first His, then it doesn’t matter what else I am. If I do not first spend quality time with Him, it doesn’t matter what else I do. Sitting at His feet and learning to listen to His voice within the garden of my heart comes first. Everything else is secondary.
He alone is my peace, my joy, my refuge. He alone accomplishes what is good. But He desires to use me as a willing vessel.
And that is what I must become. A vessel for His Heart, a tabernacle of His Presence. Only when I am becoming who He made me to be can my heart be in full bloom, under the light of the Son, drinking freely from the waters of eternal life.
So how do I become this person? How do I maintain sanity, peace, and joy with all the distractions and responsibilities of the world?
By returning to the Heart of My Lord. The center. The beginning of all good things. To rest at the feet of Him who knows me better than I know myself, and ask Him where to begin, how to serve, how to love best in this moment. And I need to return there, moment by moment, task by task, because He who waters the interior garden of my heart is the Fountain by which I am filled.