Transformation Garden - May. 3, 2011


“And Absalom her (Tamar’s) brother said unto her, ‘Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee?  But hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing.’ So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.”
II Samuel 13: 20
King James Version


"A Desolate Heart”

Desolate: To abandon. To desert. Unfit for habitation. Lacking hope. A wasteland. A forlorn place.

“No soul is desolate as long as there is a human being for whom it can feel trust and reverence.”
George Eliot

Has there ever been a time in my life when I felt desolate and alone?

What does it mean to me to read in the Bible that Tamar “remained desolate”?

“No one is so accursed by fate,
No one so utterly desolate,
But some heart, though unknown,
Responds unto his own.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Poet


“Desolation is a file, and the endurance of darkness is a preparation for great light.”
John of the Cross

The evil deed was done. And now a distraught Tamar was thrown out of Amnon’s room. At this moment, a young princess, appeared to face a life that was “ruined”, as the Hebrew form of the word “desolate” means, when used in this particular verse. In fact, in delving into the Hebrew word “desolate”, we find that for Tamar, the comparison between a barren desert and a desolate heart was extremely comparable. It was as if there was a drought and without water, nothing could grow in Tamar’s life. Not in a desert heart or in desert land.

Hidden away by her brother Absalom, Tamar was given the following instruction, “Regard not this thing.” And here is where the pain of this evil deed inflicted more than sorrow upon the vulnerable young girl, Tamar.

Interestingly, the word “regard” deals directly in the Hebrew with “feelings of the heart.” In essence what Absalom told Tamar to do was to push away the feelings in her heart about this tragedy. You may know exactly what I’m talking about. Sadly, there are times, when a knife strikes our heart, slicing it at the most tender areas of our being. Someone may thoughtlessly say, “Oh, just don’t think about it – it will go away.” Or another individual might comment, “Don’t let what happened affect you.” Really? When you’ve been raped by your own brother?

Absalom may well have been trying to “keep a lid on things” by telling Tamar to keep her feelings pent-up inside herself, but the consequences of holding the hurt within her heart served only to create a festering sore that eventually burst open, as we will see tomorrow.

The author, Alice Cary, in Life penned this vivid description of a desolate existence:

“Desolate – Life is so dreary and desolate
Women and men in the crowd meet and mingle,
Yet with itself every soul standeth single,
Deep out of sympathy moaning its moan –
Holding and having its brief exultation –
Making its lonesome and low lamentation –
Fighting its terrible conflicts alone.”

For every person who has gone through a time in their life when their heart was a desolate place, a desert of darkness where they felt trapped and alone, Tamar’s story should resonant.

The forlorn condition which Tamar found herself in, after being “ruined” by her own brother, is described by Michael Hollings and Etta Gullick in their book, The One Who Listens, as a darkness of desolation. They detail this condition as, “a sense of the loss of God or of sin separating (us) from God…in some cases the intensity grows to the point where the horror and blackness…stem from the idea that God hates you…when God is lost, then faith is deeply tested…Needless to say, much of this is very painful and almost puts the soul into a panic…Only God fully knows the purpose…but the soul, which is humble enough to endure in faith, later glimpses what it is all about…The message at these points is to live through, groan, let yourself be broken open…above all, trust.”

I love the words that were written by Thomas Moore in 1816, which became part of the German melody, “Come, Ye Disconsolate.” The word “disconsolate” means, “without landscape,” and this phrase is an apt description of Tamar’s “desolate” heart and maybe of your heart right now, too. Here are these comforting and inviting words:

“Come, ye disconsolate, where ever ye languish;
Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel;
Here bring your wounded hearts,
Here tell your anguish;
Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”

With a desolate heart, Tamar confined herself to her brother Absalom’s home, lonely and barren because of a life she perceived as “ruined.”

How thankful I am, that I can share with all of God’s daughters and sons the blessed news that our Father promises healing and hope to the desolate. Recorded in Ezekiel 36: 33-36 are these words of refreshment for desolate hearts:

Thus saith the Lord God; ‘In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities, I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the Garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it.”

Ezekiel 36: 33-36
King James Version

If you feel today that your heart is desolate, barren and forlorn – take courage, for your God has promised to build the ruined places and plant a garden in what is desolate.  

Living as I have for much of my life in desert regions, I’m constantly amazed at what happens in the springtime – even in what is called an arid land. It is my prayer that in those dry times of desolation in all our hearts and at those moments when we feel the barrenness of the desert wilderness engulfing us, we will find a springtime which brings growth and healing to our hurting hearts.

“The desert bears the sign of man (and woman’s) complete helplessness as he (she) can do nothing to subsist alone and by himself (herself), and he (she) thus discovers his (her) weakness and the necessity of seeking help and strength in God.”

René Voillaume       


“Springtime Jesus”

“You, Springtime Jesus,
just as I’d settled down for winter,
you broke into my heart
and danced your love right across it
in a mad excess of giving.
Just as I’d got comfortable
with bare branches and unfeeling,
just as my world was neatly black and white,
there you were,
kicking up flowers
all over the place.
Springtime Jesus,
I tried to find a way to tell you
that there were places
Where you could or could not dance.
I wanted to guide you on my paths
and have you sign the visitors’ book:
but you laughed right through my words
and sang to me your melting song,
causing sap to fire the branches,
causing the flames of buds
to flicker into green bonfires,
causing a windquake of blossom,
causing burstings, searings, breakings,
causing growth-pain,
causing life.
Springtime Jesus,
the fullness of life can be frightening
and I’m lacking in courage.
It isn’t easy to live with a heart
that’s wide open to invasion.
Teach me, Jesus, how to move with you,
step for step, in your love dance.
Touch my fears with your melting song.
Gift me with your laughter,
and, in the mystery of your Springtime,
show me the truth of the blossoming Cross.”

Joy Cowley
Aotearoa Psalms

Your friend,
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus

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