Thursday, 5 July 2007

... and of a tree

I think and speak of a single tree, but there are, in fact, two trees growing close together, whose shapes harmonize so beautifully that I tend to think of them as a single unit. The larger and more strikingly shaped of the two was appreciated when we first arrived to live here, but not in any exceptional way.
As with the ivy, thirty years goes a long way, not only with the shaping of a tree but also with the building and maturing of a spiritual life. Without my own journeying through those years, I would not have seen it in the way that has led to me contemplating it every day, and writing about it here.
It has never been in any danger of being uprooted or bowed to the ground, but the ivy had all but obscured it from view, and for the first three metres of its trunk it was clenched in the mighty grip of coils thicker than my arm. I became aware that it needed to be set free, and that became the focus of my efforts rather than the rescuing of the lesser trees around it.
Having completed the task, and having revealed the deep grooves in the trunk that now tell of the constriction against which it had fought, I could do nothing but step back in admiration. The tree had been re-discovered, revealed anew, and now stood as the most strikingly beautiful object in the whole garden. I had not simply uncovered it, it had been revealed to me: what I saw was a revelation.

As soon as the hidden shape had started to become visible once more, I began to feel that I was meant to be doing this, and soon afterwards, that what I was doing should have a parallel in my own life.
The whole process of uncovering the tree has been the revelation of something that has always been there: the stripping away of all that would hide it, subdue it, and eventually overcome it. Even if it continued to resist the power that would negate all its inherent goodness, it would remain under its influence through becoming ever more accustomed to being hidden from the world around it, and ever less likely to outgrow and to survive the enemy that sought to prevent its beauty being known in the world.
The tree now clearly offers itself to all who approach it, and will put joy in the heart of any who pause to appreciate it.
It speaks to me of a continual need to allow myself to be uncovered: to refrain from the habitual hiding away of my true self that has always been, and continues to be, so natural for me. It reassures me that I am loved just as I am: that God does not demand some drastic change in me, but simply asks that I shed the screens behind which I have been growing for so many years. He needs me to take my place, to play my part, and to know that He has need of me precisely as the person I am today.

During these days I have been carried far from the edge: far from any sense of proximity to the unknown which calls me to soliloquize at the very edge of my experience and understanding. The tree, it seems, has drawn me away from the fringes of uncertainty and absorbed me even deeper into the heart of that which is already my place of knowing, my home of peace and of rest: my safe haven.
I hear another echo of the gardener and his God together in Eden; this time with the presence of a significant tree.

I have said before that most of my time in the garden is spent appreciating it rather than striving endlessly to maintain its image; I do little more than control what nature herself decides to do. I now appreciate that this in itself has created a garden with its own distinct image – the one I love – and unconsciously allowing this particular tree to disappear was part of my acceptance, even encouragement, of the ever deeper seclusion gained from allowing the ivy to have its way for thirty years in that part of the garden. That this began, and with its progress engendered an increasing contentment in being separated from my neighbours, is an uncomfortable admission hinting at aspects of my outlook which are not quite as they should be, and which I know I really do not want to change.
Likewise, I do not consciously strive to maintain an image of myself: I am not conscious of having an image, but I now realize that to be absurd; if I am seen by anyone I have an image. Whether accurate or not, whether worked at or not, it will be built upon how I appear to be, and in the minds of those in the world at large who see me, how I appear to be is how I am: how I am seen is what I am, and what I am is who I am. This is almost certainly very far from the truth, but that is how the world directs the judgement of those it claims as its own.
With my frequent yearning for invisibility, and with my renewed awareness of how that may influence the way I am perceived by others, that should and does concern me; and I am the only one who can do anything about it.

That the work I am doing is not destroying seclusion but transforming it, and ensuring its continuation for years to come, is both satisfying and rewarding. The mellowing of scars under renewed growth over the next two or three years will be a source of joy as the image in my mind becomes reality, but the pinnacle of that joy will always be the continued sight of that tree, and its undeniable significance for me.

I am always asking, ‘God, what is it that you would have me do?’
It would be so easy to convince myself that I have not yet received a reply, especially as the suspected answer is not one to which I have any natural inclination to respond. I have been reminded that I must allow myself to be seen and known as the person I really am; to take my place and make His presence known among the very people from whom I tend to retreat. He calls me, not to forsake my solitude, but to balance my continued withdrawal from the world from which my home increasingly shelters me, with an outgoing invitation for others to share in the wonders of faith and joy and peace that I have gained from my own trust in His presence. To share with others the wonderful consequences of knowing that Jesus has, in effect, spoken to me as He did to his disciples two thousand years ago.

Follow Him, watch for Him, listen for Him.
Choose Him and open yourself to Him that He may reveal Himself to you; that you may hear Him utter those same words within yourself.

‘…my choice of you has drawn you out of the world…’ (John 15:19)


About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
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