Location: Bar Harbor, ME
Philippians 4:6–7 (NKJV)
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Although not as expensive as other cities and ports, yet Bar Harbor is not lacking homes that only the very well-to-do can afford. Many have been converted to Bed & Breakfast use or completely transformed into quaint and inviting hostels. All retain that charm and inviting atmosphere that was the goal for home design in 19th century architecture. The Victorian era, with all its faults, may have been the most civilized era in human history, if one restricts the observation to the commended lifestyle and aspirations of individual men and women. Perhaps nothing so embodies those sentiments as the garden.
A house without a garden simply was not complete and, metaphorically, implied a shortened and deficient lifestyle. Lacking a garden the home was just a place for sleeping, eating and hiding from the pressures of the world. No matter how expansive, the building would sooner or later stifle man's yearnings and hinder his breath. But, having a garden to walk in, a place to stretch and breathe deeply of the frangrant flowers and salty breezes whispering in the pines, one felt complete. One felt..... civilized.... again.
The garden was not a refuge from the problems of the world, it was a solution for them. When anxiety, pressures, worries, threatened to overwhelm the senses and incite a man to panic, the garden was his solution. There he could settle his soul and understand his world better and regain a due perspective on things. Its healing ambience swept away the "tyranny of the urgent" and enabled him to recharge his spent batteries. That is why the 'garden' was associated with pleasing melodies, Classical or Baroque chamber music, and not raucous Jazz. Symmetry and order, splashes of color, space to walk... were understood as essential.
Thus a garden represented "peace" and by implication, "rest". It is the physical metaphor for the Sabbath which, in and of itself, is a metaphor for God Himself. Yes, I know that this is an idealized portrayal which in any given instance was probably never fully realized. But, as I said, it was the aspiration of the culture not, necessarily, its attainment.
As Paul so beautifully captures it, the "peace of God... surpasses all understanding." It directly answers the pressures which cares and anxieties of this world pour out on our souls. When our core being is threatened with withering, when our essential humanity is at risk, when we are on the verge of sheer animal reactions, when hope is nearly extinguished and the possibility of a "flourishing" life is nearly drowned in cynicism, we need to walk in the garden. We need to flee to the sanctuary God provides and rest in His Presence. The refreshing Breeze is His Spirit, the Beautiful Order is His Logos, the Peace which descends on us is God Himself.
We can flee to our garden while sitting at our desks. We can pull off the highway and stop our cars on an off-ramp or the shoulder. We can shut out the world of worry and pressure that screams for our attention and we can be quiet and know that He is God. In that calming moment we can cast our cares on Him and make our requests known. Not in panic... not as a last resort when all else has failed... but as an act of hope... as an act of faith... believing that He who cares for the bird in the air and the flower of the field will certainly hear us and, in hearing, speed an answer on its way. Beauty is there to be appreciated and praised. Peace is there to nurture our souls. We can walk in our garden for as long as it takes to settle our soul.
That garden is always an intrinsic part of the house of faith.... and therefore peace which transcends all rational explanation but is experientially known, is ours to embrace.