I can still hear my grandmother’s throaty voice singing out the old hymn “In the Garden” (C. Austin Miles, 1912). This was one of many favorites she would choose between as she washed up the dishes from lunch or supper. They were a staple in her communion with the Lord, the reward of her daily walk. Though I was quite young still when she passed away, I often observed her face as she sang, perceiving each song she chose was precious because of her life’s experiences. Between “An Old Rugged Cross”, “How Great Thou Art”, “Just As I Am”, & “I Surrender All”, this one stood out to me most because it showed the Lord’s presence was a tangible reality to her. Her expression was captivated, peaceful and smiling as she came to the words of the chorus: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other can ever know.” It seemed she would pause each time she came anew to the word “He”, her cheeks almost blushing as those of a young girl in love. In truth, she was. She’d come to know the Lord relatively late in life, after all eight of her children were born and after her first husband had passed away, making redemption all the sweeter.
I still love these words, and perhaps because of the memories they evoke, the hymn has become one of my favorites. The title, as well as my grandmother’s fondness for it, came back to me in a beautiful garden in the New Mexico desert, at a camp where I worked a summer in college. I loved to go there in the early morning for my devotions, and it was then I realized the depth of personal meaning the song had for me. At this stage in my journey, I’m struck anew by one particular phrase: “I come to the garden, alone” (emphasis mine). Heretofore I’d perhaps been unwilling to accept its veracity, but isn’t it so true? In trysting with the Lord, we most often come alone, whatever the circumstances of our lives and relationships might be. Though I’ve personally always longed for marriage, and never imagined myself single this long, I’m grateful now for the time I’ve had to singularly devote to these meetings. It’s a gift to get to share my life with Him as its companion: “…and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other can ever know.”