Avoiding Back to Nature

I was told I needed a project for my Spiritual Formation training. My initial idea was to write a Bible study. At the time, I was teaching a group on 1 John, and thought, I could kill two birds with one stone. 1 John relates well with the objectives of Spiritual Formation. It would be an ‘on the job’ kind of process.

Unfortunately, two things happened. First, one of my fellow students was also writing a study on 1 John as her project, and I didn’t want the comparison or to be redundant. Second, when I told the supervisor about my idea, he had little reaction. I had a sense of “been there, done that.”

In the back of my mind I had another idea, but wasn’t sure if it would fulfill the requirements of this project. Musings brought the image of a meditative path. We own a bit of woods behind our house and it seemed like a good spot for that kind of thing. In addition, it would be used by people seeking Spiritual Direction, either before or after a session with me.

As I sensed the reticence from the supervisor, I said “or…” Immediately, he re-acted. He loved the idea, especially because no one else had done anything like this before. A sense of anticipation sprung.

I am a gardener. I love planning new spaces and being a co-creator with God in developing lovely places in my yard. The thought of creating a meditative space fed my creative soul.

My husband and I worked hard, clearing paths, purchasing mulch and trinkets to place along the way, cutting up broken limbs and planting splashes of color to break from the woodsy hues of green and brown. When it was done it was magnificent, if I do say so myself.

Pictures were taken, notes written up and soon it was submitted. The supervisor loved it. Success!

As time went on, I offered it to people as a place to meditate, but it was never used as a I had hoped it would. Life got busy, and one year it never stopped raining…Every. Weekend. Care in the garden became haphazard and infrequent.

Nature being as she is, resumed control of the path. Trees have fallen, foliage has disregarded the “paths” we made, and many of the stone Ebenezer’s fell down. Some of the plantings have managed to thrive, but now there is a general feeling of disrepair. This after only a short period of time.

I see my path as a metaphor for our spiritual life. Once an oasis of beauty and purposeful in its intent. Neglect, for one reason or another, has caused it to go back to its natural state. No longer fit for the purpose it was designed.

Like my meditative path, our spiritual lives need to be tended to. Despite the outside influences of busyness, difficult climates, and encroaching nuisances, we must be vigilant, steady, and aware. Just as my path would have kept in shape with little but regular attention, so can our spiritual lives maintain shape during those unfavorable times of our lives by giving simple, consistent care. There are times when you can do little and times you can give more attention. But the key word is attention. Our spiritual lives must have attentiveness.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 ESV

 

As Paul says in Philippians 3, we have a goal, purpose, and objective. Keeping this goal of spiritual maturity before us, helps us press on to achieve that objective.

I don’t know what it looks like for you. Perhaps you use frequent prayer. Maybe devotions are more appealing to you. Bible reading might be the thing you crave. Whatever draws you during times of stress or limited space, do something and be consistent. You can always do more when that period of life eases and you can devote more time and care to your spiritual life.

Please don’t be like my path and return to your natural state. Give your spiritual life some attention. It’s a lot easier to maintain where you are than to start over.

May you find the thing that feeds your soul and can easily maintain you during your demanding periods of life.