The girl had never noticed the gate, or at least she didn’t remember ever seeing it before. It was old, weathered wood with rusty hinges, but with no way to see through it it might as well have been stone like the rest of the wall.
There was a young girl who found great joy in visiting a small park bench nearby her apartment in the city. The park bench stood along a high stone wall, and several flowering plants sprung up from small cement holders giving a lovely fragrance and color to the usually gray surroundings of the city. A large tree stretched over the wall from the other side and shaded the space. Every day the girl would leave her apartment to go and sit on that bench and enjoy the flowers of her quiet, little spot. It was not especially impressive, but it was her refuge in the midst of the hard and dirty surfaces of the city landscape, and it gave her a place to sit and dream the afternoons away.
One day as she sat on the bench, she heard the sound of laughter and of children playing. She looked around in every direction trying to determine where the sound was coming from until suddenly she realized it was on the other side of the wall. She climbed onto the back of the park bench and was able, just barely, to stretch high enough to see over the stone wall. She was astounded to realize that the tree, whose shade she had always enjoyed, was part of a large, beautiful garden. Stretched out before her eyes was a formal English style garden with topiaries and decorative hedgerows. Beautiful flowers bloomed among several flowing fountains while butterflies and bees flew about the space.
The children in the garden looked up to see the girl peering over the stone wall. They laughed and called to her, “Come on in and play with us!”
“I’m not big enough to climb the rest of the wall. I can’t make it,” the little girl said.
“Don’t be silly, just use the gate right there! Come, we’ll open it for you.”
The girl had never noticed the gate, or at least she didn’t remember ever seeing it before. It was old, weathered wood with rusty hinges, but with no way to see through it it might as well have been stone like the rest of the wall. As the gate swung open, the children giggled again as her eyes opened wide to take in the beauty of the massive garden. They all let out a squeal as she joined them, and they spent the rest of the afternoon together running around the topiaries, hiding behind the decorative hedgerows, and dancing with the butterflies.
Before this day, the little girl had never considered that there might be more to enjoy than her solitary park bench on the other side of that stone wall. As she stretched and strained to see over the wall, new worlds unfolded before her in magical gardens. She only needed to get past that wall.
Our spiritual journeys can often seem just fine. What we have experienced has been enough, and really it might be all we have ever known. Far too often we have stayed there in the same place without ever realizing that there is more—more to be explored and experienced, new people with whom to journey, and magic to be experienced as our spiritual horizons expand. There is more.
Scale the walls or find the gate. Explore new spaces. Dance with butterflies.
Don’t just stay on the park bench.
Husband, father, pastor, and Steelers fan. Lover of coffee, dogs, and bourbon.