Breaking ground is not one of the sexier garden tasks. Pulling hunks of sod from the earth, beating them against the ground to free the valuable topsoil from the roots, spreading them out to dry. Then, I drive my shovel deep into the compacted earth. I lift and sift and crumble til the soil is fine and friendly for the plants. There will be the addition of compost, of course, necessary for nutrition and proper drainage. The process is long and exhausting, and the only immediate payoff will be aching muscles and probably a couple of blisters.
So why bother? Why not just leave all that grass alone?
Because I dream of something more. Of something beautiful and fragrant, teaming with life. I imagine my granddaughter watching butterflies and hummingbirds come and go. I dream of filling our home with lush blossoms.
But before there can be butterflies or blossoms, there has to be a space for them. Something that is good in its own way has to be removed so that there is room for something that is better.
Even so, in me. If I wish to create art that is Incarnational, if I hope to carry within me the sweet aroma of Christ, if I wish to flourish and play my unique role in bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, I must create space. I must sometimes intentionally cut away that which is good to make room for that which is better.
There are many practices which serve this effort. Fasting frees me from enslavement to the “unlawful tyranny of the flesh” (A. Schmemann). Contemplation frees me from enslavement to my mind. Silence and Solitude free me from enslavement to the frenetic chaos in which most of us are drowning. Worship frees me from enslavement to my pride. Confession and the relentless practice AND acceptance of Forgiveness free me from enslavement to my past.
As these practices ruthlessly tear up the hard places in my soul, tilling the soil until it is fine and rich, they create space in me to be generous and creative, to give to others out of my abundance.
In the 13th chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells a story of a farmer who scattered some seed… “Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
You and I can keep trying to pile the work of loving others, creating beautiful art, and telling good stories into a life that is already stretched too thin. A life that is crowded by things that are good perhaps, not best. But I fear that our offerings will be scorched and withered, or choked out altogether. Far better to do the hard work of letting go, of creating space, so that we might produce a worthy crop.
I would like to invite you to be a part of the Luminous Project, May 6-8 in Franklin, TN. Here you will have a chance to practice letting go. You will be invited into a space of stillness and surrender. Here the soil of you will be gently tilled and nourished, and the gnarled roots and rocks discarded, so that you might become a well watered vineyard whose yield is sweet and strengthening to those who partake of it.
This post was inspired by the Luminous Project. Luminous is a creative spiritual event in Nashville May 6-8, 2014. To find out more, check out luminousproject.com. You can use the promo code ‘BLOGtour14‘ to get 15% off the registration price. 50 spots available with code.
p.s. All flowers in the photos (including the one with our winged visitor) are the yield of our little backyard garden. The photo at top is a promise of things to come…