Friday, 1 February 2008

Another tree

The freedom we must not merely allow, but must actively encourage in all who follow after us as well as in our own children, is the same freedom in which we are now able to live our own lives. It is a freedom to become, to be and to live as ourselves: as the people we were born to be. The world effortlessly drowns our recognition of it, and little wonder perhaps, as even for those whose lives are a continual quest for understanding, for meaning and for truth, it does not appear to be any form of freedom until they are already living within it.
Every aspect of a journey of faith is a further step on the journey into an even deeper faith, and every such step transforms us: we are brought to a place we could not have imagined before arriving there, and the shift in our awareness, hope and trust – however small the move may be – could not have been anticipated. It is granted through an openness to the unlimited possibility of God’s presence and His awareness of us as individuals. With every small step we take towards Him, He reveals all that we need to draw us ever deeper towards our goal: freedom in His hands with a longing for nothing but to do His will.

Viewed from without, faith brings restriction and self-denial, endless struggle with temptation, inevitable failure and consequent feelings of guilt: a mental and emotional incarceration without the merest hint of freedom. And yet, though unrecognizable, this is the freedom for which we long. It is what seems to be another paradox, but when that freedom is attained even in the smallest measure, the contradiction dissolves into an appreciation of the impossibility of comprehension without our own experience.
The whole process of journeying into the arms of God can appear to be one of walking blindfolded on a narrow and difficult path, and in allowing ourselves to be guided along the way, of being led by others who are equally blind. This is one of the sad products of our living and growing in the world with no conscious trace of that ‘first light’ with which we had been born. Instead of growing both naturally and supernaturally into and through the stages of realization, we have to battle our way back to the beginnings of that essential awareness, and then, building on a hesitant faith in an unknown Presence, we find ourselves among The Found, we hear ourselves being called by name and we feel His touch; He grasps us and steadily draws us toward Himself; we know we have been claimed as His own, and we begin to feel the impregnable safety that is His embrace. All this leads to the fulfilment of our worldly life: we are fully transformed into the men and women He made us to be. We truly become ourselves, and we are able to put every facet of our being and our longing into the words, ‘Do with me what You will Lord.’

Mark 4:28 speaks of the growth that occurs in the transformation of a seed while unattended in the ground. This is how our spiritual growth should have been, but the reality is that we have to strip away all the veils and curtains that separate us from that growth before we can begin the process of recovery.
My garden once again provides me with physical reminders of the extra labour and support needed to achieve what nature would herself have accomplished without effort if growth had been allowed to continue undisturbed from seed to maturity.
The established root system of any plant is the source of life and the stability that enables it to take its place in the world, standing strong and fulfilling its purpose. This is particularly evident to us in the life and the strength of a tree.

Nearly every tree visible from my home, including those in my own garden, has grown where nature placed it,. They have simply done what they do, and they have done it well. But I have two Ash trees that were found growing from seed in the lawn, and having managed to see them and avoid them with the mower throughout what I took to be their first two years of growth, I eased them out of the ground and heeled them in again where they could be left in peace. That was more than twenty five years ago, and today they are real tree sized trees.
In their case the potentially disastrous upheaval had no lasting ill effects and their continued growth required no more than being placed back into their natural environment.

So it is with our spiritual awareness; early in life the potential is all there and feeding on what it is given, and seemingly drastic setbacks can be countered and overcome in the right environment and atmosphere. The childhood awareness of the light within is not easily quenched other than by the wrong example of those from whom a child takes its lead, and by the distractions of the man-made world into which we bring them.
As adults however, getting back to a position of safety, stability and fruitful growth into a meaningful maturity is far more difficult.
Whether moving towards faith for the first time, or trying to rebuild it after gradually falling away, or after some major event that has shaken all belief to the very roots, simply trying to connect to the support and nourishment we need, and hoping that this will ‘heel us in’ to the right environment will not suffice. It takes hard work, commitment and perseverance, advice and moral support from the right people, and a very real and rock solid means of steadying us through whatever may come; and that may be needed for a long time.
This does not deny the possibility of being suddenly brought to life and faith; this is an ever-present possibility for all of us and we should be praying for the Spirit of God to fill us in that way, but it does not bring everything at once, all the answers and all the understanding, all the trust and all the peace, and it does bring a need for a supportive and ongoing nourishment of a different kind.

Unlike the two Ash trees transplanted when in their infancy, I have recently planted another tree that portrays the more drastic needs of the mature when trying to establish or re-establish themselves in the ground of faith. It is a larger than usual tree for transplanting and needed a sizeable hole to receive it, preparation of the soil around it, the laying of perforated pipe around the roots to ensure that watering will get down to the right places, and three large stakes to hold it securely in place by means of strong strapping. Its support has already been severely tested by the recent strong winds and without it the root system would never be able to successfully grow and spread into the surrounding ground; the tree would have no chance of becoming firmly anchored in it’s maturity, and could not be expected to become the tree it was made to be. The stakes will remain in place for at least the next three years. When they are removed it will no longer need that support, just as it will no longer need watering and feeding by anything other than nature herself.
Growth and transformation will continue unseen, and I shall have made way for its freedom in the hands of God.

‘And when the crop is ready, at once he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’
(Mark 4:29)

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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