The Garden

You want to be free, but what is freedom for?

You are roaming the world. You are drinking in this freedom, your heart flaming with life on the pinnacle of a mountain. But your heart yet yearns, for you are searching. Searching, searching for something, your heart driving you onward.

And then one day you discover a little gate in a stone wall. Your heart, which has been beating wildly all the while that you’ve roamed, suddenly is quiet in your chest. You lean against the gate and peer through.

You glimpse something beautiful, something more beautiful than anything you’ve yet seen. How is this, when you have traversed jungles and rivers and caves? You think you may understand: the world never belonged to you, but this—this is the place you have been searching for. And yet—there is a lock on the gate. And you do not have the key.

Suddenly, there is the warmth of a presence beside you. It is another—and when he opens his hand to reveal a key, you realize he is your other.

Together you enter into the hidden place beyond the wall. Here, in the secrecy of a garden, you discover that there is always something new to be found under every leaf, behind every rock, and even in the coolness behind the little waterfall. It is not nearly as vast as the world outside the garden, but in its smallness you realize something: the freedom that you knew before was only ever to carry you to this place where you and he are discovering, day after day, the intricate beauty of the garden that is yours and yours alone.

You realize that freedom exists for love.

An Excruciating Gift

I was given two gifts this Christmas that cannot be weighed. First, a flight to visit my family over two thousand miles away. There is a thing or two you should know about the Mallett home: it is saturated in warmth and light, food and wine, teasing and laughter, wisdom and beauty. Whether slurping Father’s Thai soup or nibbling Mother’s whipped shortbread, we shared many a conversation that reached the heights of a kite one moment and the depths of an anchor the next. We bantered over boardgames, ate late, woke late, played more boardgames, and throughout it all cached many more bright memories next to those already cherished (these newest including additions to the family, such as the seriously edible and ever-smiling Clara-Beara).

Yes, gifted with my family. And gifted, unexpectedly, with clarity of sight. Curled up on the couch against my husband’s chest, studying my loved ones, I suddenly saw them as God sees them. It was excruciating.

When Nicholas noted the tears glittering in my eyes, he took my hand and whisked me away to the refuge of our bedroom, where I found myself dissolving into weeping on his shoulder. I cannot remember the last time I cried with such intensity. But my heart was twisting, twisting, for just as I saw their souls as God sees them—in all their childlike beauty—I also saw how I have failed to love them as He loves them.

My poor husband—he held me close, murmuring sweet consolations that did not ease my tears. And then I began to laugh, nearly as deeply as I was crying, for even then, in my poverty, the Lord was gifting me with love. I remembered that He sees my soul just as I saw the souls of my loved ones.

I emerged from the bedroom, puffy-eyed and grinning, ready to play another boardgame with my beautiful, baffled family. I don’t think they understood any more than my husband did, this strange, seemingly random, spiritual experience. But not strange or random to me. Even now, I admit, tears are pricking my eyes, for the gifts that mean the most are truly those that are unexpected but just what you needed.