By “you”, of course, I mean “me”, and that question is intended to be directed toward me from y’all (if there are still any of y’all reading this). I will dispense with useless excuses and simply plunge into some of those random musings you’ve come to expect of me.
I’ve been spending some time in my garden these past few days. Looking at it, you might think that I’m using the word “garden” a bit too loosely, because right now all that’s apparent is a bunch of relatively well-plowed dirt (and a perennial rosemary bush in one corner). There aren’t even any seeds hidden below the surface. What you don’t see is the amount of work I’ve put into this ordinary-looking dirt to make it ready (hopefully) to welcome some tomato and basil (and some other yet to be determined) plants in a few days, after the predicted storms pass.
You see, the dirt in my garden is not what you’d call naturally fertile stuff reminiscent of an open patch of Iowa field. No, this is by nature good thick Georgia red clay, not very well suited for the deep planting of tomatoes. So here’s what I’ve done – and if reading details about home agriculture is about as appealing to you as eating Georgia red clay, feel free to skip to the next paragraph, and you’ll still be able to get the gist of what I’m saying. First, I dug up the whole damn thing by hand (well, OK, with a shovel, but you know what I mean). It’s only about 100 square feet, but remember, there’s thick Georgia red clay just a few inches below the surface. Said digging also entailed pulling up some serious protruding roots at about every other shovelful. After a couple of hours of this task, I was pretty sore. I also tested the soil to figure out what additional nutrients it might need. I let this newly turned soil air out for a couple of days, and then returned to add a few things to the soil - gypsum to break up the clay, bone meal to raise the phosphorus level, and general organic tomato fertilizer to enrich the soil – tilling the garden (with a power tiller) after each addition. Finally, I added a layer of fresh topsoil and worked that in to the garden.
Welcome back to those of you who skipped that agronomic tangent! Why on earth would I bore you with all that? Not because I’m trying to prove my farmer creds, but because I wanted to remind you of the vast amount of work involved in growing food. Too often, we think of food as something that comes from the store, rather than from the earth. Now, I don’t want to turn this into a rant on sustainable food, but if you want to know more about that topic just Google Michael Pollan and follow the links (The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a great book by him). And if you don’t know anything about the sustainable food movement, definitely spend some time checking that out.
What I’m really after here is a spiritual analogy, or even just a character development one. For too many of us who profess to follow some sort of spiritual path, we harbor false expectations about the ratio of work to results. That is, enlightenment is not something that suddenly appears out of the sky, nor is it something that happens once for all time, after which we’re left in a perpetual state of transcendent wisdom and loving kindness. No, the process of enlightenment, or in the Wesleyan Christian tradition “moving on toward perfection”, is a gradual and constant one: gradual because most of us will never quite get there, and constant because we’re either moving forward or we’re (sometimes imperceptibly) slipping backward.
When was the last time you challenged yourself to do something that required work, or was out of your comfort zone, or simply was hard (without being something you were required to do)? Are you, perhaps, too comfortable in your comfort zone? Are you willing to settle for mediocrity, or will you stretch your boundaries? As my man the Jedi Pastor noted in his recent post, sometimes it’s good to get outside of yourself, outside of your usual comfort zone (Warning: PETA members should avoid that link!).
Are you really content to be where you are for the rest of your life on Earth? Or do you think, or wonder, or suspect that there might be something more? Are you afraid to reach for something more because you think you won’t get there, or because you think you’ll find out that it’s not really there after all? Why aren’t we willing to learn, to grow, to push ourselves? Are we lazy, or are we afraid of challenges? Are we satisfied remaining where we are, or are we simply afraid to exchange the known for the unknown?
The Christian calendar is approaching Holy Week, the culmination of Lent. It’s easy for many Christians to go straight from the triumphant entry of Palm Sunday to the triumphant resurrection of Easter, completely bypassing Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, past all the suffering that actually leads to the triumph of Easter. That’s also what we want to do in our own lives – bypass the difficult parts, and get right to the triumphant resurrection. But that’s not the way it works. We have to go through the challenging parts to get to the good parts. We have to travel through the wilderness to reach the Promised Land. For that matter, we might not ever get to the Promised Land, or we might not recognize it when we do get there. But one thing is certain – in order to get to the Promised Land, we have to travel through a lot of desert first.