One of my mother’s favorite hymns, which became one of my favorite hymns, is “I Come to the Garden.” The first verse and chorus go like this:
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear
Falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me
And He tells me that I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.
Does that sound familiar? I learned that song very young and sang it as a kid in Methodist Sunday School and Church. It seemed a pretty, nature-based kind of hymn. It has that “Jesus Loves Me” quality offering reassurance that I am loved and that I personally matter to God or my Higher Power.
But over the years as I fell out of, back into, and again out of churches and faith communities it was always the hymns of my Methodist childhood that were the containers of my hesitant, questioning faith.
Recently I learned the story of the song and was thrilled to find there is a feminist core to “I Come to the Garden” and that, in fact, surprise! --it is an Easter song and maybe, kind of a recovery song.
“I Come to the Garden” was written by a pharmacist named C. Austin Miles. He wanted to write a song offering, “rest for the weary.” Ready to compose, he began to read from John: 20—the story of Mary Magdalene and her visit to the garden where Jesus had been buried, and her discovery that he was alive.
So the “I” of the hymn is Mary Magdalene on Easter morning. It is a song of a woman who had feared the loss of a loved one and the loss of what she believed had kept her safe, and the discovery that He and she—and we-- have a resurrection. In recovery we each have a new life and we are held and known—and loved.