Grow Deep Roots

Those of us traveling a Lenten journey to Easter have reached midpoint.   While we know we’re almost there, we also know, we aren’t there yet. We anticipate growth, although we can’t fully see it.

Sometimes, while we’re awaiting outer evidence of inward belief, we get impatient and want to rush the process. We forget that most of life happens in God time, not human time. So, the ancient wisdom of the theologian Tertullian (155–222 CE) is both profound and reassuring: “It’s God’s nature to be patient. One of the signs that Holy Spirit [the activity of God] has descended is that patience and waiting are always by its side.”

So, we’re assured. Holy Spirit is here, present and active. Time is on our side. Gardeners, farmers, horticulturists and Jesus also teach this, as in the Gospel Writer called Luke’s (see Luke 13:6-9) brief “Parable of the Fig Tree.”

A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So, he said to the gardener, “See here! For 3 years I’ve come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it waste the soil?”

The gardener replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put fertilizer in it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, then you can cut it down.”

This agrarian image, suitable for people of the 1st century accustomed to living off the land, still provides wisdom in the 21st century. Because one of Jesus’s key teachings, shared repeatedly, is that we are here to live life abundantly. This means we’re meant to be fruitful and productive in our life’s purpose, however we define it — as we align ourselves with God, and the climate, weather and other conditions at hand.

Perhaps you’ve noticed, Blessed Reader, conditions infrequently align with us. So, Jesus’s wisdom about fig trees reminds us: Growth and maturity — irrelevant of one’s calendar age — take time. For fig trees, it may be as early as 2 years or as long as 6, or longer.

We can do little to accelerate when fig trees will mature. Time and patience are key ingredients for nurturing their growth, with a generous helping of faith and trust. And just as fig trees need to grow deep roots, so do we need to dig into the infinite depths of faith already within us, even as we prepare to rise up.

The exact time required depends on our life conditions and circumstances. Yet, no matter what they are, our maturity comes in knowing, we can’t fully control them. This is part of the growth and maturation we can experience during Lent.

And, it reassures us when we discover: Sometimes, all our efforts are for naught. Sometimes, growth means plucking up or chopping down. So we can begin again. Anew. All the while knowing, resurrection is on the way.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.

Be Your Own Guru – Part 3

When I taught high school English, I had a poster centered above the blackboard which said: “Listen and Silent are spelled with the same letters.” I wish I had a dollar for every student throughout my teaching career who said, “Really. Wow!”

To listen, we first need to be silent. Many people wish to be effective listeners, although we aren’t always as effective as we’d like. Whether this has anything to do with technique, I don’t know for sure. Yet, the most effective way I’ve found to listen is still the advice Jesus the Christ gave in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt. 6:6), when he said, “Go into your room and close the door . . . .”

To be effective at anything we truly wish to do in our lives – as well as to be our own guru – we need some sacred, silent time apart, to commune with God (however we understand God) and ourselves. Jesus and every other master mystic did it. So can we – if we’re willing to gift ourselves with the time, place and space to make it part of our lives.

So, as we begin the season of Lent, when many people fast from particular indulgences, consider which activity, event or thing you could give up, relinquish, or “unfollow” (see “Be Your Own Guru – Part 2” for more about that). Then, use that newly liberated time and space to be silent.

Many types of silent meditation practices are available, so choose one which is most comfortable for you. However, if you’re someone who’s struggled to meditate because you thought you were doing it “wrong” or nothing was happening, remember that the true goal of meditation is two-fold: to connect with God and with ourselves.

Despite what we may believe, silent meditation isn’t about stopping our thoughts or finding bliss, although on occasion, both of these things may occur. Rather, meditation in the silence is a way for us to understand our own minds, thoughts and feelings. Even when it seems that nothing is happening, or that our minds are scattered and spacey, daily time in the silence opens our inner pathways so we can listen when our inner guru speaks, however softly.

The truth is, to be our own guru, we need to turn within. Otherwise, we’re constantly distracted by all the noise, commotion, drama and uproar around us. Even if the time for ourselves seems indulgent or selfish, ultimately, it allows us to be more present to ourselves and then to the other people, places and things which are most important in our lives.

Our silent time honors us, so then we may honor and be present to others. When we choose to embrace time in the silence, we put our own spiritual oxygen masks on first. Then we can support and serve others, as we choose, with renewed energy, clarity and strength. And sometimes we discover that the journey becomes easier also.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.