When my sixth grade teacher assigned a book report, we went to the library to find our own book. One book in particular drew my attention. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Since secrets are mysterious and gardens are beautiful, I knew I had found the perfect book for my report.
Less than a week later, I found myself crouched in the corner of my brother’s hospital room. With the machines beeping. And the I.V. bag dripping. And white-coated people descending.
Everyone I knew kept crying.
My book didn’t help.
In the first chapter, the protagonist — a young girl named Mary Lennox — watches the plague sweep through her village and kill everyone in her family. She’s surrounded by death.
I was surrounded by it too. In the Intensive Care Unit, death hovered in every room.
Several months later, my brother came home. To his new life. In a wheelchair.
My book started to help.
When Mary Lennox is taken to an uncle’s house, she discovers a secret garden. There, her wheel-chair-bound cousin could walk again.
Even though I knew the book was fiction, I just had to believe that something out there could make my brother walk again. I had to find my own secret garden.
In real life, this hoped-for garden looked different. At first, it looked like local church prayer meetings and a trip to a Billy Graham Crusade. Then, it looked like more doctors’ offices and the hope of new technology. Perhaps there’s a surgery that could fix everything.
Eventually, everyone accepted that no prayer meeting, no evangelist, no doctor, and no surgery could ever restore this brokenness. No magical garden existed.
And a wheel-chair ramp was permanently built to our front door.
I gave up on my book.
Years later, I started reading another Book. There’s a garden in this Story too.
While Jesus prays, His friends keep falling asleep. And He keeps sweating blood.
It was there, in this garden, I found the secret I’d been looking for my entire life.
Jesus pleads for God the Father to “take this cup.” To remove the suffering that awaits Him. Yet, God doesn’t answer His prayer. Just like He didn’t answer mine. Or my dad’s. Or my mom’s. Or anyone else’s I knew.
Jesus responds with these words:
“Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).
Jesus submits to undeserved suffering. And it’s only through His submission that our brokenness is truly restored.
The secret is in submission. It’s in praying these words: “Not as I will, but as you will.”
I can find this secret garden anywhere. In my backyard. Or my bedroom. But mostly, I find this secret garden when couched in the corner of my living room. With the dishwasher beeping. And the sink dripping. And the kids descending.
With His Book in my hand, and His Word in my heart, I can say, “Not as I will, but as you will.” Of course, the suffering doesn’t go away. Just like it didn’t for Christ.
But because of Christ, suffering has an expiration date. We know this life is but a mist. Wholeness awaits. And it begins with submission. It’s begins with prayer.
Have you prayed this Prayer of Submission in your own Garden of Gethsemane?
Last week, I read the most beautiful, tender post by my blogging friend Kate McKimmet. Every Monday is “Radiation Day” for her 5-year-old daughter. Please take a moment and read her words and pray for her sweet daughter Jasmine.
On Monday, May 21, Adrianna (age 15) leaves the hospital for the last time. She returns home to spend her final days with her family before she meets her Savior. Please pray for Adrianna and her family.
On Monday, May 21, my brother, who has now spent 27 years in a wheelchair, faces his last possible surgery. If this surgery is “successful,” he may be able to continue his life in his wheelchair after several more months of healing. If this surgery isn’t “successful,” then he will be unable to get out of bed for the rest of his earthly life. Please pray for this surgery and for a peace that surpasses understanding.