Waiting in Joyful Hope, Part II

Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. My thanks to you on the vast and varied feedback on my last post.

I submit this to you, from Way of the Ascetics: “The new life you have just entered has often been likened to that of a gardener. The soil he tills he has received from God, as well as the seed and the sun’s warmth and the rain and the power to grow. But the work is entrusted to him. If the husbandman wishes to have a rich harvest, he must work early and late, weed and aerate, water and spray, for cultivation is beset by many dangers that threaten the harvest. He must work without ceasing, be constantly on the watch, constantly alert, constantly prepared; but even so, the harvest ultimately depends wholly on the elements, that is, on God.” (Colliander 7)

My good people of God,

My intent here is not to give you tips on how to utilize your MiracleGrow more effectively, have a nice lawn, or how to make your flowers grow back in the Spring season. My intent here is to dispel what I believe to be an all too common misconception: that we are saved by God and God alone. It is true that we are, thankfully, saved by God and, if he doesn’t want them to, our good works and good life could theoretically count for nothing; “the harvest ultimately depends…on God.” This, however, is not an excuse to sit back and enjoy the ride.

When I entered seminary, I was told many times that the only way the formation here would work is if I handed myself completely over to it. I likened this, stupidly, to the car wash where you have someone guide you in but eventually the moving track will grab a hold of your tire and pull you through, leaving you to enjoy the ride and fiddle with the radio. That sounded great! Before I knew it, I’d be out of here, totally clean, and ready to tackle the world. But what about the end of the track? Eventually your guiding track, that is, the formation will end and you will be left high and dry, not paying attention and eventually get rear ended or crash. An enjoyable outcome, I know.

The only way formation works is if we hand ourselves over to formation in the same sense we hand ourselves over to Christ and our relationship with Him. We might be handing ourselves over to the formation but, friends, we are not called to abandon ourselves to do it; no, we are rather called to take an even greater ownership of our lives and formation otherwise we will never grow, we will never prosper.

So what does this have to do with the garden? Colliander says later that “the garden that we have undertaken to tend and watch over is the field of our own heart; the harvest is eternal life” (7). In our lives, as we dedicate ourselves to this or to that, what is it doing to our garden? Are we introducing ourselves to gnats and bugs that will eat the fresh leaves or are we introducing a new bag of potting soil full of rich nutrients into our flower beds?

God has given us all of the tools we need to be successful. He has given us seed and soil, rain and power, so that we might be able to tend our hearts most efficiently. All too often, we make the mistake I made shown through the car wash example and receive something splendid and simply let it waste away while we believe we are watching it flourish.

This Advent, I urge each of you to make a renewed commitment to yourselves. This renewed commitment would be selfish if I truly believed we spent nearly enough time on ourselves. All of the things we wear, buy, carry, or provide for ourselves…those are all things of earth; things that have no place in the heart. In other words, get out of your minds and into your hearts this Advent. Too often, the solutions for the things which plague our hearts are sought after in the mind…what a mistake! The only thing we will find in the mind is a story, never an explanation or solution. Peace, truly made with ourselves, must be made from the heart, first of all, and then spread through the mind to the mouth and then to the world. Remember, “make peace with yourself and heaven and earth make peace with you” (8).

The heart is the innermost chamber of our being. The heart is the symbol of love and, since God is love, it is in the heart which he dwells. The heart knows our deepest secrets, desires, and longings; thus it follows that God, too, knows full well our deepest secrets, desires, and longings. Entering into our own selves requires an untold amount of humility, especially if you’re afraid of what you might find. Colliander urges us to “take pains to enter your innermost chamber” (8). Do not be afraid to search yourself for the good, the bad, and the ugly. We certainly have no problem searching our home gardens for the fresh leaves, the weeds, and the nasty bugs…why can’t we apply this same vigor for success to our own lives? God is already keenly aware of all you have to offer; are you?

All of this comes from our being told to “work without ceasing, be constantly on the watch, constantly alert, constantly prepared” (7). Take pains to work hard tending your garden now, and you will reap a bountiful harvest when the Master Gardener comes to collect his fold. Work in the sun now, rejoice in the Son as a result.

In the Book of Jeremiah, we find the story of the potter molding his clay. This is a fantastic story of God’s forming power and grace. But he does not do it if the clay has made itself unworkable. God cannot easily harvest from an untended garden. It is up to us, and to us alone, to prepare our hearts for the Lord and the great harvest which he has planned for all us. God has provided the resources and the power, but he has entrusted the work to us.

Humbly yours, I remain,

RA

PS – Conforming ourselves to God’s will is difficult! But remember that it’s called MiracleGrow for a reason!

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