A Disturbance in the Forest Part Deux
I have been keeping an eye on the disturbed area in our neighborhood forest. I thought the scar would be long-lasting and perpetually ugly during that time. As I've watched, the native plants have come in--first those pioneers that delight in disturbed ground, and then -- well, I'm still waiting for the "and then." But I have no doubt that the healing is on the way.
Oh! To have faith that in time every scar is healed. That all damage will come out repaired and improved on the other side. And yet, that is what we need to believe; that the fruit of our afflictions is worth the agony of going through those afflictions. That creation groaning in travail yet looks forward to the chains to fall away and to the resurrection of wholeness which will transform it to its very core.
For our light affliction, which is for the moment,
worketh for us more and more exceedingly
an eternal weight of glory.
2Cor. 4:17 ASV
I see in this disturbed plot of ground an immediate healing process--the pioneer plants that hold the earth until healing is complete and wonder if it is the same for us--when trials come, is there a temporary covering that protects us enough until the deep work can be done? I want to look for it.
In the meantime, the pioneer plants themselves provide an opportunity to create beauty--beauty from the results of the disturbance in the forest...
I suppose it is a bit odd to be talking about fruit right now. Everything fruit-bearing in the garden is heading toward a deep winter sleep, the time of production long past. But I came across a quote that brought me into contemplation about fruit.
Fruit is a pretty common metaphor. I mean, my goodness! The apple has had a bad rap for millennia due to being assumed to be the culprit in the loss of our paradisiacal home. But there is also the fruit of the womb, the fruit of the loom, the fruit of our labor, the fruit of their way, the fruit of the spirit and, alas and here we land--the fruit of affliction.
I won't suffer to expound on how and why we experience affliction. This is ground covered by many people more talented and insightful than I. What is important is the fruit of the affliction. What fruit will grow from our afflictions, and what will we do with it...?
In the section on the book of Ruth in A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, John Trapp states:
"Many are humbled, but not humble; low, but not lowly.
These have lost the fruit of their afflictions … and are therefore most miserable."
To suffer afflictions, and then lose the benefits of such suffering...what a colossal waste! It is like the old saying that if we don't learn our lesson the first time, we will have to go around the same mountain again. Except it's not. Because the fruit of afflictions does not just teach us a lesson. It creates in us a new paradigm, a holier way of being, a clearer vision of our standing before the Lord. I would not want to miss out on any of that.
Am I therefore looking for afflictions? Certainly not! But if they come...no, when they come...I hope I will allow them to do their work in me.
it is good for life
"God says what He says because it is good for life." Professor Darrell Bock, in an interview with Dr. Michael Brown.
The garden won't grow without sunlight (Do you have 6 hours of sun for your planned garden location?)
The garden won't grow without water (Do you have an irrigation system--or easy access to water?)
The garden won't grow without good soil (Have you broken up the fallow ground?)
The garden won't grow without seeds...seeds don't happen without pollination...pollination doesn't happen without pollinators....pollinators sometimes sting....
We spent many years struggling to keep a garden going in a dry and parched land, without an irrigation system. When we finally put in a drip system, lo and behold, green happened! We would joke about it and say, "Funny thing that! It turns out plants need water."
I still buck against the garden books that insist I need a plot with 6 hours of sunlight ("Come on, already! Really?) I want to plop seeds in the ground wherever I want and then expect a profusion of beautiful or edible plants. Quickly. But no matter how I fight against it, I can't escape the Law of the Garden. See above. Things just work out better when I operate within those given parameters.
There are many things we fight against when our Creator tells them to us. The first, is that our relationship with Him is broken--oh, so broken. We invent all kinds of things/gods to replace Him and point to our makings and say, "See! Me and God, we're good!" It is hard enough to know Him as He truly is (if we ever will, but this is our task and our calling) without saying back to Him, "No! I don't like that! You can't be like that."
"Sorry," He might say. "I am."
The Garden withers
The first winter of this garden, we pulled out a plant we thought was dead. All indicators showed it was...the leaves were gone, yes, but moreover, the branches had a dead snap to them, and there was no green to show when the branches were scratched. What we did not know, was that here, in our new home, life goes underground (for the perennials), and waits for the winter to pass, saving its branches from the freeze that might creep down into all parts of the plant.
Now I watch as perennials retreat into themselves, and I don't freak out. Sometimes in late summer I peak below the surface and see new green waiting beneath the withering leaves and stems, and I smile at the promise of new life beyond the winter cold.
But my thoughts the other morning were of how we also fall apart toward the end of our season. We fall apart, and things that once seemed so important fall away from us when we near the time to be separated spirit from body. It's a God-given process to prepare us to be glad to shed this husk.
It put me in remembrance of the process we go through when our children prepare to break away from us as they grow. There is change, and pain, and things die and new things come about. It is sad but it is inevitable. And there is something new and important on the other side. Hopefully in this instance, something glorious.
What is the relationship between pain we would rather avoid, and its role in preparing us for an upcoming separation? If we could understand what is coming--what is always coming, for separations are inevitable--we might better bear up under what is.
Full of Light
Doing what I call "walkabout" one morning in the garden, I saw the freshly weeded beds beginning to sprout again with sons and daughters of the weeds I had just removed. I had not had time to plant and mulch in the direction I wanted the bed to go. This process reminds me so much of what my Rabbi says about cleaning up and cleaning out, and how if you don't fill the space with the "right stuff," it refills with the "wrong stuff" even more so--Matthew 12:43.
OK. So weeds don't actually pass through waterless places and find no place to rest and the analogy falters, but there is something to the need to crowd out the weeds to reduce their number--in our gardens and in our hearts.
But that is not what this post is about.
When I lifted my eyes I could see the garden as a whole, including its environs, glowing with the light of a soon-coming-Autumn sun, and I saw the hope of relief and refreshing and renewal for the coming year--the new year from the point in time of the blowing of the shofar. I reached to pluck out a weed and felt the oddness of appreciating it for the satisfaction it gave me in its removal. I love these weeds, I thought. They flatten themselves along the ground and spread from one source root, and yield to my tug in a most satisfying way. A new way of seeing for me. And I want to see in a new way:
"Jesus saw the Kingdom in a mustard-seed, and the adoring woman in a harlot. He saw the solid rock in Simon, and the lover in the son of thunder. He saw in a child the citizen of heaven, in a bit of bread His broken body, in a cup of common wine His sacred blood...Never was a vision such as this, because never was there a nature such as this." (George H. Morrison)
It makes me wonder what He sees in me. What He sees in us. Moreover, it makes me wonder: What of the Kingdom could I see if I asked Him to show me, if I allowed Him to give me a new way of seeing...