Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)
TITLE: THE STEMS THAT REMAINED
By J. C. Lamont
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He chose a small, yet sharp hand pruner from among his tools. “Do not fear me,” he whispered. “I know what to do.”
Sarah descended the steps of the Renewed Hope Rehab Center and trudged along the winding path across the lawn. The front gates loomed ahead of her, a black iron omen forewarning her of the dangers in the world she was forced to reenter.
She glanced back at the place she had called home for the last five months, wishing she didn’t have to leave.
She caught a bus to the only neighborhood she had known since she left home, where she was just one more nameless face in a city bustling with people. Dropped off two blocks from her shabby apartment, she walked through the thong, witnessing lovers strolling hand in hand, a little girl squealing in delight as she bounced on her father’s shoulders. Usually these scenes would have evoked her despair, driving her straight to the needle. And though her heart ached, the healing touch of salvation she’d found in rehab had alleviated some of the pain.
Gently, the Gardener removed two canes that criss-cross and rubbed together, then cut another that was spindly and deformed.
It was a very simple practice to cut the dead and damaged wood from the stems. Yet if he didn’t, the dross would affect the growth of new shoots, and the blooms, if any, would be frail and feeble.
Sarah reached her street and immediately her eyes fell on her old dealer, standing in the shadows of the alleyway, flanked by two young girls, scantily clad in “working” clothes.
“Who is the lord of your heart, Sarah?” her counselor had asked. “Jesus, or your pain?”
She put her head down and quickened her pace. No more would she seek love in the arms of countless men. No more would she seek approval of her worth by their desire to have her for a night. No more would she seek relief from the pain in a needle.
By the time the Gardener finished, only five stems remained. But they were strong, vigorous, and healthy. Now he would have to cut them back, until they reached only fifteen inches in length. To keep the plant from weakening, he cut the stems just below the second set of five leaflets.
Sarah shrugged out of her coat and flopped onto the bed. She longed to go to church, to feel the comfort of Christian fellowship, to develop her newfound faith, but she knew she could not. She had nothing to wear, only a draw full of mini-skirts and halter-tops. Her sordid past would clearly be displayed for all to see. She would be looked at with disdain, rejected, just as her own father had rejected her, too wrapped up in his work and drinking pals to show any love to his daughter. No, she could not face rejection again. Church would have to wait until she found a normal job and could afford to replace her wardrobe.
Tears welled up in her eyes as she stared at the ceiling, loneliness wrenching at her soul. “How then shall I live?” she spoke aloud to her unseen God.
Again, the words of her counselor came to her. “Wait on the Lord, Sarah. Trust in his timing. He has a purpose and a plan for your life.”
She brushed a hand across her cheek and began to sing. “Though I walk through the wilderness, blessed be Your name….*”
The Gardener stepped back and admired his work.
“Someday, little rose,” he said softly. “Someday soon, you will be ready.”
He stepped out of the nursery and into his garden, a courtyard swelling with roses, all blooming with vitality. Jade ivy cascaded over the stone wall enclosing the garden and then wound around arched trellises. The garden overflowed with color; flora and fauna entranced in crimson and gold, shades of blue and lavender, and splashes of orange hues. The garden air was perfumed in fragrance, the luscious scent dancing in the breeze.
Yet the Gardener’s eyes rested on only one area; an empty space between two rose shrubs waiting to be filled.
*Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman copyright 2002
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