In Sydney, Australia, in the middle of suburbia, nestled between high-rise buildings, hotels and apartments, bordered by bustling motorways there sits a beautiful Japanese garden. A place of calm and serenity. As you breach the walls of that little piece of heaven, you find the noise and busyness slowly fade away. The further you walk into the oasis of nature, you begin to hear and experience the quiet sounds of nature. Further still into its depths you walk until you hear the unmistakable sound of rushing waters. You turn the corner as the path meanders along and there it is! The beauty displayed there before your eyes. The sound overwhelming your senses. Gushing yet calm. Rushing waters flowing over the edge of a small but magnificent waterfall. It’s so easy to lose the knowledge of where you actually are. This peaceful, beautiful place in the middle of a chaotic concrete jungle.
It talks to me of perspective. Stay with me – I’ll explain…
I stumbled across this little oasis a few years ago when I attended Hillsong Colour Conference in Sydney. I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore its grounds until this year in March, when I brought my eldest daughter with me to attend Colour Conference for the first time. We had a quiet afternoon to fill on the Sunday following the Conference, before we had to catch our flight back home to Queensland. So, we decided to have a look. We were both absolutely struck with awe. We couldn’t believe the beauty of our surroundings and the location of it, I mean, it was in the middle of the city.
You see, I had been talking a lot with my daughter over the past year and few months about perspective. She was constantly getting upset about how unfair we (her parents) are and how she doesn’t get anything/everything she wants, using the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ in all her raging sentences. Being the oldest of four children is a difficult gig at the best of times, let alone being a girl who is growing into a teenager and all the emotional and physical stuff that comes with that. I get it. I do. I was once a young girl just like her, but I was the youngest child of three (which is a whole other story for a whole other time & place). I’m trying so hard to be patient and understanding with her. I can only do and say so much though and this experience was the perfect opportunity for me to drive my ‘perspective’ point home.
When she was talking about all the bad in her life and how unfair everything was, she failed to see all the good in her life, what we had given her and the opportunities she did have. She was overlooking all the positive and concentrating majorly on the negatives. She failed to see that she was privileged enough to even be there with me at Conference, to fly down with me, to say in a hotel room with me, to attend conference, to have all sorts of fabulous food and experience myriad types of shopping and entertainment. Instead she was grouching that she didn’t have a kindle to read on while we were having some down time, like I did. Seeing the cup half empty instead of half full was leaving her feeling all kinds of hard-done-by and upset.
Then, we entered this peaceful, beautiful garden in the midst of the noise and busyness of the city. In this little oasis, it was very easy to imagine that your surroundings were sprawling, almost endless – until you looked up and saw the tall buildings. That the waterfalls and water-ways were majestic and natural rather than man-made and operating by pumps. To hear the sounds of nature and the water gushing over the waterfalls, you could almost believe that you were miles away from any city – until you heard a car horn or an emergency vehicle siren blaring. We were in a little space of wonder, a pocket of peacefulness in amongst a sprawling metropolis of buildings, cars, people, crowds, stress, schedules, pressure, chaos.
Were we sitting in the garden enjoying the nature surrounding us, or were we sitting in the peaceful garden looking at the buildings, listening to the traffic and getting lost in the crowds? I can assure you, we were lost in the seclusion & wonder of the garden. At that moment, the proverbial cup was not half empty, it was full and brimming over. We were spoilt to experience this. To escape the big world around us and enjoy the moment in these serene surroundings. However, our perspective right then was probably a little bit skewed.
I took the opportunity to talk this through with my girl. I said “If we were flying over this city in a plane, we would probably not even see these gardens from the air or if we did, they would probably appear as a small dot of green amidst the glass & concrete of the buildings at the most”. I don’t know if you’ve looked out a plane window whilst travelling over a city, but to me, people look like ants and cars look like fly’s when you view them from the sky, so this little Japanese garden would probably look like nothing more than a tiny pocket of trees – yet, walking through it and sitting in it, we lost ourselves for a little while.
I think my daughter finally seemed to understand a little bit more about ‘perspective’ and how she was seeing things when we did actually fly off over the city that afternoon on our way back home and she was sitting by the window, keenly looking out for this little garden. She could point out the conference centre that the Colour Conference was held at, she found the hotel that we stayed at, she saw the river that runs alongside the garden, she could clearly see the stretch of eateries we ate at, yet she could only see a small patch of green where the garden would be – nearly missable if you weren’t intentionally looking to find it. The view from the plane almost made our experience in the garden seem just about insignificant but for the photo’s I took on my phone and the memories we had of walking through the gorgeous oasis.
I guess we all have our moments when we think that life is unfair and difficult – even now, at my age, I have my selfish moments and little temper tantrums about the injustice of life. I have my tears and my pity parties but then I drag myself up and out of it and move forward. Daily, I make a point to be thankful for all I have; for the amazing people in my life; for the material things I own; for the opportunities that come my way; for the work I get to do; and for the talents and abilities God has given me. I am so grateful that I have food to eat, fresh water to drink, clothes to wear, a roof over my head, a car to drive and money in the bank. I don’t have everything that I want and I don’t get to do and be everything that I want, but I am alive, I’m happy, I’m healthy, I’m loved and I am blessed – and those are the things that I focus on.
What is your perspective? Is your cup half empty or half full?