Oct 27 2013

The Garden of God

GG9645This past Friday I had a chance to go to Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois to photograph.  This natural area is located in the Shawnee National Forest and is only a little over an hour from where I now live.  This was my first time to photograph this beautiful place.  I say it was my first time to photograph Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois but it was not my first time to photograph a Garden of the Gods.  There are at least three such places that use this name in America.  A few years ago I photographed at Garden of the Gods in Colorado.  It too is a beautiful place.  I haven’t visited Garden of the Gods in Hawaii but would like to one day.

CO-Garden-of-the-Gods-Siamese-Twins-077I’m not exactly sure why people have chosen to call these special locations “Garden of the Gods.”  Nor am I clear why it is “Gods” rather than “God” in the name.  As a Christian I affirm that there is but one God and that this God is the Maker of heaven and earth.  This God, interestingly enough, takes great delight in gardens.  The biblical story begins with the Garden of Eden and closes with a description of the New Jerusalem that is described as a city with many features of a garden.  In between there are lots of other references to gardens.

In the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery we’re told that in the Bible a garden is an image of both nature and sacred space.  The writer says “At a literal, physical level the garden is a place of life richly nourished, well attended to and appointed for the enjoyment of its human owners or residents.  As such, it is a touchstone of such motifs as provision, beauty, abundance and the satisfaction of human need.  Next to heaven, it is the preeminent image of human longing.” 

GG6892The word “paradise” is of Persian origin and referred to a walled garden.  I find that very interesting since we often refer to heaven as paradise.  When one of the thieves that was crucified with Jesus asked to be remembered when he came into his kingdom he heard him reply, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)  The New Jerusalem, noted above, is a walled city with wonderful life-giving trees inside and a flowing stream. (Revelation 21)  Some have suggested that the Garden of Eden might have been walled as well since the Bible says that the entrance was guarded by an angel once Adam and Eve were expelled from it. (Genesis 3:24)  Though it may have been an enclosed garden it was open to God.  Genesis 3:8 speaks of God “walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”   The garden was where God met with and talked to His creatures.

GG9503Although God can meet us whenever and wherever He chooses, I know that many people, myself included, feel God’s presence and hear His call frequently in the natural gardens of the world.  I am not a gardener but I have heard many people say that gardening is a spiritual experience for them.  They sense God’s presence in their gardens and talk to Him there.  For me this often happens in our national and state parks or other places of special beauty.  Ultimately, however, we might be wise to view the earth itself as the Garden of God.  This is the place He has put us to live out our lives and to commune with Him.

In Genesis 2:15 we read that God told the first humans that it was their job “to take care” of the Garden.  Hopefully we realize that this is still our job.  When we remember how important gardens seem to be to God and realize that it is in the garden that He comes to visit us, we should find plenty of motivation to be good stewards of the Garden of God.  It is in our best interest both physically and spiritually.

–Chuck

(The second picture was taken at Garden of the Gods in Colorado.  The other three were taken this past Friday at Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois.)