As an artist, inspiration is everywhere. My eyes and heart tend to find muses based on my moods.
When I was having a particularly tender day last week, I turned towards the gospel of Jesus Christ for relief and came across this passage from Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, "The path of salvation always goes through the garden of Gethsemane."
The image above is what came from those words. Having never been there in person, I relied on pics online for reference--the twisted gnarly branches of the olive trees are beautiful, and their small leaves demand little water to thrive in the desert climate. What else would I put into my artwork that would tell the story? A solid rock. To symbolize my Savior, who is my Rock, my Redeemer, who went to that place and atoned for my sins, my sorrows, grief and pain.
Years ago, I went to a women's conference at Brigham Young University with my daughter, Dara. She was a senior in high school and I wanted time with her alone. Having been to Women's Conference a dozen times or more over the years, I had several experiences planned for the two of us. I wanted to show her the beauty of this conference and why I'd come so often to get my spiritual cup filled and fortified.
The first day of conference, two significant things happened on the first day: my special needs son, Dean had to be removed from his host home due to a volatile situation. And my missionary daughter, serving in New York, was in a car accident.
Suddenly, my focus was not on the conference and the daughter with me--but on two other children who were hundreds of miles away, in situations that were serious.
Dara and I kept our schedule to go to the classes we'd chosen, while I was madly texting back and forth with Dean's case manager and Diana's mission health office. I was physically and emotionally "a hot mess", as my Southern roots declared.
But I was in the right place that day. In the first class, speaker Elaine Marshall shared her life experience as the mother who lost a treasured son, dying at the age of eight years old. Grief for his passing held her tightly; her mother heart mourning his absence continually. Out of concern, her own inspired mother came to her and kindly suggested, "You've spent too much time in Gethsemane. Jesus has already been there for you. Go find another garden."
Is that not the most beautifully inspired words of comfort? "Go find another garden."
It is a wondrous thought to dwell on Gethsemane garden and what went on there when Jesus performed the Atonement. It was there that He took upon the sins of the world--the indescribable pains of all of God's children collectively--and by doing so, granted us access to forgiveness and grace, mercy and redemption, making it possible for us to continue to evolve as mortal and spiritual beings.
But sometimes, I spend too much time in my own Gethsemane. It could be said of me, that I set up house there. Always tending to my sorrows and sins, grief and guilt, as if being ever-mindful of them will make me a wise, worthy steward; a responsible woman, mother, wife. So automatic is my "tending in Gethsemane", that I forget that's it's okay to leave my troubles there and accept the Atonement as it is meant to be accepted and move "onto other gardens".
What I'm recognizing is how limiting that exercise is--to beat a path to Gethsemane and set up camp there, as it were--to indulge or to punish--my own well-being instead of trusting my cares to the Master Gardener. It is a matter of timing, perhaps, that I learn how long to linger in that sacred Garden before looking ahead and moving out of it. I can trust in Him whose garden it is and leave my cares right there in His care.
As for the crisis of that day--it all shook out to be manageable. My son moved to a better place and has been there for 5 years. My missionary daughter got the medical care she needed and finished her mission successfully. The trip with my daughter did strengthen our relationship and we created sweet memories.
It was never intended that we, as God's children, take up residence in Gethsemane's walled garden; He has greater desires for us than to be prisoners of our mortal bodies and earthly trials.
That's why He send His son.
There is comfort in Gethsemane--I know I will yet visit there many times over in my life, but I will try to remember that the Savior, the Great Redeemer of all, the One who sanctified that place, both figuratively and genuinely-- He also left that Garden a long time ago.