I am not much of a gardener, in fact, I live in a townhouse partly to avoid the responsibility of caring for the outside of my dwelling. I suppose I am a descendant of the part of Adam that got kicked out of the garden! Where I live we have a gardening committee made up of folks who love such work and thinking about it, and making it happen, so our place is lovely despite the fact that my running shoes get more use than gardening tools.
I have noticed that in gardening there are various styles. I am not really one to think one style is objectively superior to another, though they are different and various people will appreciate them to differing degrees. Still, I wonder if the styles relate to our minds and souls and how we think and how comfortable we are with mystery. Some gardens have very rigid straight lines, clear definition between sod and dirt, clear sections of types of flowers or flower beds, maybe they have sleek furniture that is clean and angular. Others are more blurred, they look sort of half hazard, growth and fecundity all over, nary a straight line to be found, bursting with colours and leaves that don’t match, furniture older worn out, rounded. Some prefer the one, some prefer the other. Diversity of gardens and of the folks who love them is part of what makes God’s creation so interesting and loveable.
I have been thinking about gardens because on my walks lately I have been noticing them more and more as folks enjoy the springtime in Ottawa and perhaps thanks to Covid they are spending more time and money on their gardens than they normally would and straight-lined or blurred they are popping these days. It all has me ruminating on the life of faith and what is emerging as I delve deeper into my spiritual practices. In my life of faith when I was younger there were more straight lines, you do this, you don’t do that, you think this, you don’t think that, black and white, easy, clear. The longer I spend reading my bible and meditating upon the word or in silence before the Divine, the more I find myself comfortably lost in mystery. My spiritual life feels more and more like a disorderly garden, full of beauty and fecundity, even if the logic within it is getting harder and harder to pin down.
Part of me wants the straight lines just as part of me finds them pleasing in a garden. This isn’t a harsh either/or matter. In my quietest moments I must admit that the blurring is where I am headed and I think I am ok with that.
(A photo of the garden my dad cultivates with a loose hand)
Here is a blurry and messy (not overly thought-out) example for you. Many religions speak of re-incarnation, the returning of the soul in another entity in creation. Christians don’t tend to think this way and many (sadly) will go so far as to mock that viewpoint. Here is the blur: what if the resurrection of the body is something akin to re-incarnation or serves—at root—a similar purpose to the faithful? Not the same, mind you, but need the lines be as solid as some think they are?
I like to think that as the Light shines it can make sight difficult at times, like when you first wake up and the sun is already up or a camper has a flashlight in your eyes. Paul wrote,He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. It makes me think that the blurring may be part of the life-giving work of the Lord. I sure hope so!
The point is that if you jump into the quiet disciplines you might need to be prepared to be surprised at where it all leads you. I recommend (as some reading this no doubt would recommend to me) that a guide is helpful, someone a little (or a lot) further down the road who can help us discern between godly words and visions and deceptions.
Guide or no guide be prepared for a challenging and joyful ride.
May the Divine work in you as you pursue the life of faith.