Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Talk of trees ...

Finding meaning in outwardly inconsequential things is both a natural and a supernatural consequence of faith.
To suspect for the first time that an incident or concurrence may be more than coincidence; that an unusually felt impact of words may convey something of personal significance; that the timing of someone’s path crossing our own, or of ours crossing theirs, whether apparently fortuitous or otherwise, is somehow an intended and meaningful occurrence, is to have become aware that communication with something beyond ourselves - with God - may indeed be a real possibility.

In our superficial and semi-automatic way we already know this, and our praying – infrequent and unfocused though it be - is possibly the sum total of our unconsidered realization of this truth.
But one day, our mind strangely registers something differently: the world around us recedes from its all-enveloping position of prominence within our consciousness - in itself a new experience - and we stop. In that moment we are focussed beyond our every-day life and we think, we question, we wonder.
We have been told so many times that communication is a two-way thing. Communication with God is also two-way, and it is not Him who holds things back: He is always speaking to us. The limiting factor is us: our lack of faith, our failure to maintain our awareness of Him in all that we do, and our inability to pray.

Heartfelt prayer arises from firm foundations that can only be built with that faith and that awareness. That is not to say that a person cannot be brought from a desert emptiness to real communication with God in an instant; an opening of ourselves to His will, a complete laying of our lives before Him, and an undoubting trust in His judgment and His response brings His word to us.
In a single instant of longing, of peace or fear, of grief or joy, of remorse or determination, of certainty or near despair, He can pierce the divide and find us in the dazzle, bewilderment or darkness of our moment. Whether in a single transforming revelation or in the one-step-at-a-time accumulation of conviction, He can find us, call us by name, reach out and touch us, grasp us and draw us into the safety of His acceptance of us just as we are. His touch and His word confirm His presence; His presence confirms His existence. We are awakened to His truth, and move closer to Life as it is meant to be lived. We are on our way to being, as it were, reborn.
For those of us who, like me, have taken the longer and slower path, the recognition of His presence, His friendship and love, His calling, instruction, blessing or admonition becomes more likely every time we respond to His word with the desired action and with prayer. Prayer, which together with our constant awareness and openness to His speaking to us, forms our part in that two-way process, and maintains our continued communication.

These thoughts have been stirred from me by the sight of a tree. This particular tree has been fixed in my mind throughout the last two weeks, and I am unable to shake off the process of its being revealed to me any more than I can wipe away the image of sinuous beauty that it has burned into my memory.
The experience has been absorbed and anchored somewhere deeper than my consciousness, and it now runs through me repeatedly as a parable. I am not searching for deeper levels of meaning as I am bathed in a significance which confronted me almost at once; a further example of God speaking to me through things I do and things I see, and of which I feel compelled to speak here. And that compulsion, the internal pressure that brings thought to expression or action, is likewise a facet of His communication with us; a leading and empowering that culminates in an overflowing imperative: an undeniable nudge in the direction of the response we are intended to make: the unmistakeable prompting of the Holy Spirit.
I have thus been returned to my thoughts on gardening (23.04.07 post) and the influential place a garden can take in the spiritual life of any of us.

I have lived in my home for thirty years, and for all that time part of the garden has been allowed to go its own way. What was a neglected area of undergrowth with a scattering of damson and hawthorn trees amid the straggly privet, wild roses and small amounts of ivy covering the ground, gradually became a rather wonderful green and shady world of ivy-clad trees rising from a floor of almost uninterrupted glossy green. While the ivy spread across the ground in slender strands, wherever it rose upon the trunks of trees it quickly grew into the stronger growth with which we are all familiar on hedgerow trees around the countryside. Thirty years goes a long way in the transformation of a tender and harmless looking ivy shoot.
The main reason for the whole area being left untouched for so long is that it has always provided a substantial buffer between the utilized part of our own ground and that of our neighbours; it gave us a deep sense of privacy from that side of the garden.

Our children enjoyed its sense of semi-forbidding seclusion when they were younger, and once they had outgrown the tree house built on its edge – since decayed to a roofless danger - it almost faded from our minds, so well did it function at keeping us separate from much of the rest of the world around us. What brought me into its dappled light with a purpose, rather than just for a passing appreciation of its seclusion and quiet, was the need to prevent some of the trees falling under the weight of ivy and top-heavy growth. Several had already gone, and others were only held up by the trees they had leant against when they could no longer support themselves. One in particular, a hawthorn, at the edge of its smothered world and thus clearly visible from the mown grass, was arched in a graceful bow. Having suddenly seen it as it really was – not so much a graceful bow as an agonizing struggle to remain rooted in its world, and unbroken under the burden of its strangled canopy – I began my rescue mission.
I soon became aware that there were many others in a similar predicament; they had grown up in their own private jungle and had to reach high on slender trunks to find the sunlight, every metre gained being another measure of support for the ivy they sought to outgrow.

I now know I have several weeks of contemplative work amid their quiet solitude before I will have made them all safe for the foreseeable future.

Those weeks will be the more enjoyable for being within sight of that one particular tree.

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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