Gardens, rabbits, and spirituality lessons from a 4-year-old

My heart has been changed, and it’s proof that gentle prayers asking God to help you find peace can help you.

It took almost 9 years, but I can finally look at a rabbit in my yard with peace in my heart.

Up until, like, yesterday, I looked at rabbits near my garden with rage and wanted to end them. They ate my flowers, pooped all over, and (probably) spread disease.

The first full summer we lived in this house, Will was four. We had fallen for the place partly by virtue of its homey charm, including rose gardens tended by the 90+-year-old original homeowner and her adult children. I bought beautiful annuals to go with them, loading up at the farmers market on dahlias and impatiens and nasturtiums and snapdragons.

As I took two-year-old Anna upstairs for a nap I looked out the window and saw rabbits all over my new flowers. I ran outside to chase them away and cursed at them. Will had followed me out. He said, “Mom, maybe if you didn’t care so much about the flowers you wouldn’t have to hate the rabbits so much.”

For eight years I’ve cringed and glared and chased at rabbits in my lawn, feeling angry at them at first and then, hearing Will’s voice suggesting an alternative viewpoint, and I’ve thought, God, help me be as wise as my son. Help me care less about the flowers and more about the rabbits.

I also discovered rabbit repelling spray and tried to choose plants that are less tasty to rabbits. But I didn’t pray for God to take the rabbits away. I prayed to care a little less about the flowers and a little more about coexistence.

Yesterday, I stood watching a honeybee poke in and out of the bee balm, and two rabbits came into the butterfly garden. One is very young. It was born in a hole in our backyard, and when we found its injured sibling a few weeks ago, Mike and Anna took it to the wildlife rehab center. (My idea, definitely a sign of progress.) So we’ve watched that young bunny grow over these last weeks. Yesterday, I watched the bunny and its mate nose around my garden. Then nibble at some flowers (including marigolds, of all things) and sniff the parsley. I didn’t scream, “Hey, that parsley is for the caterpillars, you big-eared jerk!” I watched the young bunny lounge in a little patch of dirt, clearly a favorite spot because it had worn a groove in the garden soil. It stretched its whole body out like a 50’s pin-up model and looked very content and at home. I didn’t sic the dog on it.

I stood calmly and watched, with curiosity and even gratitude that I was getting to know these bunnies. “Geez, what’s happening to me?” I asked Anna. We decided that a little bit of asking for help over the years helped me be actually peaceful about the rabbits. It’s not world peace, but it is less ire, and that seems like powerful, peace-contributing prayer.

Spiritual Growth

Dear People Whom God Loves,

The purpose of prayer is not to get God to do what we want. Prayer is the gradual opening of ourselves to God, so that God may work in us as God chooses.

Spiritual growth is not the result of great effort. It is the result of letting God’s love show us new ways of looking at things, and being willing to follow (imperfectly, of course)
the new visions.

The Holy Spirit is God/Love dwelling in us, forgiving us, healing us, bringing us courage
and strength, opening our minds and hearts. Our job is to give the Spirit permission to work
in us any way that the Spirit chooses. That is why we call it spirituality—God’s Spirit touching our spirit.

Smile, God Loves You.
Father Clay

Letter from Dear People Whom God Loves, by Father John Clay. (C) 1999

One thought on “Gardens, rabbits, and spirituality lessons from a 4-year-old

  1. Thanks for this inspiring message. I, too, hate the rabbits and deer that eat everything in my garden.


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