The Shady Corner of My Heart
If “home is where the heart is” then my heart must be about an acre wide.
We bought a century old home out in the country about eight years ago and I have to admit, my heart doesn’t stop at the front door. I love this whole place. But it wasn’t always that way. On the far corner of our property we had our own little junkyard that faced the road and ran off into a ditch. Since the day we moved in, it had been the bane of my existence. It wouldn’t matter if my house was spotless and the lawn meticulously manicured – if I looked out the window to that corner, malicious utterances escaped my breath. It was completely overgrown with 7-foot tall weeds. AND, I’m pretty sure there had been tenants there for the first few years. I’m glad we never actually made acquaintance, it sounded like they had a pretty raucous lifestyle. And I’m pretty sure they had too many legs. It didn’t help either, that our 80-year old next door neighbour believed the entire corner to be his own personal dumping ground for all his dead, destroyed and disgusting things. I suppose we could have asked him to stop but that would require admitting that we had watched him struggling to carry debris bigger than he was. (We’re nice Christian folks. We don’t have time to help elderly neighbours.)
So anyways, this loathsome corner of our property is the only corner that really gets any shade. So I dubbed it “Shady Corner.” And my plans to clean it up were always floating around in my sub-conscious but for years it went untouched. The weeds grew taller and choked the life out of any remaining pretty things. And the debris tossed in by our dear old neighbour rotted and decomposed. “Shady Corner” got a little nastier each year and the odds of me actually going in there to clean it up a little less likely.
A few years after we moved in, I entered a very difficult season brought on by an accumulation of self-perceived failures in business and ministry, bitterness against our previous church, an identity crisis within our new one, the pain of my dad’s death and the fact that God didn’t answer our prayers for his healing. I still believed in God, I still loved Him for all the things I believed Him to be. But I didn’t like to be around Him anymore. And I REALLY didn’t like myself. I guess I just gave up on everything for a while. Weeds of selfishness, discontent, bitterness and pride had taken root in my heart. They choked the life right out of the pretty things. Old sins started to haunt and torment me… and then they turned into new sins. I didn’t want my marriage anymore and everything I said and did communicated that. Cameron moved out into the barn… there was very little chance of our marriage making it.
One early spring afternoon, in the midst of our silence, I looked out my window. The sun was shining radiantly and the new grass coming in looked fresh and inviting… but “Shady Corner” got neither light nor life, and I loathed it especially, more than ever. With sudden and vicious decisiveness I grabbed my old running shoes and scrummaged through the garage for gloves, gardening tools and a wheel-barrow. I pushed it all over to that wretched corner and started to claim back what had been lost. As I hacked down giant scotch thistle and pulled up old grape vines, I started to cry. And as I cried I started to pray. I repented for all the horrible things I had let cloud up my heart. I prayed for wisdom and let God have His way. It was deep, gut-wrenching work on both fronts. It felt good and necessary to have blistered hands and muddy knees. This continued for a full week, every single day when I got home from work and all weekend long… just me and God and this garden that He was teaching me how to create. On the 7th day we rested. One the 7th day, my marriage was restored.
Originally, I had wanted to wait until Shady Corner was finished and picturesque so I could post an insta-worthy picture for your virtual enjoyment… but I actually love it now as it is, and I realized that’s all that really matters. And, just like the heart, its transformation will never be fully complete. I will be weeding and pruning it for the rest of my life. Even still, it is beautiful now, because of what God has done and it’s getting better every day. Everyone who abides there reaps the benefits of that good and necessary hard work… and of course, they can appreciate a little bit of shade.