I have my own ‘secret garden’ – a swing bench under a Tipuana tree, tucked around the back of our house. That tree does something for my soul. Its strong limbs stretched up to heaven remind me to look up too. It is green almost all year round and once a year—like a confetti-dripping bride—it showers tiny yellow flowers on the ground. It’s the place I go to be still, to get away from the noise and the demands of the world, to talk to God.
Last week I found myself there again, sitting in dappled sunlight with a cup of steaming coffee warming my hands, and a miniature schnauzer pressed against my leg. I just sat and let the simple sweetness of that moment trickle into me. It made me realise just how much I need such times of merely being. Even my spiritual life has a large element of ‘doing’ – a list to pray through, readings to complete, thoughts to journal. As I slowed down that morning I became aware of the emptiness from which I have been operating lately, the pre-occupations that keep me from connecting deeply with God, the sense of obligation that drives so much of what I do, and the lack of joy, love and peace with which I often do things.
My life has grown too busy, too noisy, in a nutshell too much. In response, I have found myself going back to the basics of what God has already taught me. I have rediscovered simple phrases—follow me—and simple obligations—daily times of prayer and Scripture meditation—which had been neglected in my drive to learn and do and be more.
Jabez was commended in the Bible for praying for more–“Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!”—but everything inside me rails against his desire for more. So I found myself praying an unusual prayer under that Tipuana tree—a prayer for less.
Here is the prayer of Joan instead of Jabez:
Oh, that you would bless me and still me.
Let me marvel at and find joy in my territory.
Let what you have planted here take root, deep root.
Let me tend those single soul seeds with care and diligence,
instead of neglecting them in a bid to gain more.
Let me be fruitful right here in this small
patch of earth that you have granted me.
I pray for less, Lord:
Less worry, less fear.
Less ambition, less drive.
Less concern to impress others.
Less of the world.
Prayer of Jabez – 1 Chronicles 4:10