Maybe the ‘me’ that must die is the ‘I-want-to-be-God me’ and maybe the ‘me’ that Christ saves and breathes life into is the ‘Made-in-God’s-likeness me’ which is totally loved and cherished by Creator, Christ and Comforter.
This post is part 2 of Lettuce and Oxalis.
As I reached in to weed out the oxalis from amongst the lettuce seedlings, I was mindful of the history of how both of these plant species came to be together in this particular patch of dirt. Oxalis comes up every year (about this time) from a tuber-like structure that remains persistent in the soil for years, it seems. In contrast, the lettuce seedlings are there because I spread their seeds into that place about eight weeks ago. I very intentionally harvested the seed heads from the parental plant (which had grown successfully over the summer, adapted to the soil and yielded food and seed) and planted them in the well-prepared earth. The seeds were covered with the right amount of soil and watered whenever they needed more moisture. We had a dry, warm Autumn in Melbourne this year so these lettuce seedlings needed lots of attentive oversight to prevent them from withering after germination.
While carefully weeding out the oxalis, I became aware of the parable we were acting out in this mundane domestic activity. If oxalis is not weeded out with care, some of the tubers break off and remain in the soil ensuring greater numbers of the weed the following year. And, because the lettuce crop and the weeds were so entwined, intricacy was needed to ensure that the lettuce was not weeded out with the oxalis. Thank God (and evolution) for our opposing digit, the humble thumb!
What can this allegory teach us? Well, firstly, if the lettuce seedlings symbolize true beliefs about who God/dess is, sometimes they are quite fragile. In their infancy, they can be damaged or ‘pulled-up’ before reaching maturity. Understandings about the character of Creator, such as, ‘God is love’, ‘God is good’, ‘God is merciful’, ‘God is just’, ‘God is tender’, ‘God is faithful’, can fail to take root in our lives. If these truths are not protected by ourselves, others, life, and/or the world around us, they can be lost to us before they become bedrock in us. They can be smothered or starved by the competing ‘weeds’ and wither from our experience and understanding if we cannot find groups/churches that nourish these truths in us.
Oxalis can be used to symbolize the lies (or untruths) we believe about the nature of the Divine being. Some of these beliefs are rooted back in our childhood and have persisted for a very long time, like tubers lying dormant in the soil. We may think we have weeded them out but they keep returning into our psyche each year or every other year. These beliefs may include ‘God is male’, ‘God is mean’, ‘God doesn’t listen to our prayers’, ‘God is a superhero’, ‘God wants to punish me’, ‘God doesn’t care about human/animal suffering’, etc etc. The list could go on and on, sadly enough. But, we are onto these lies. We can become aware of the beliefs we have about God/dess (and about ourselves/each other) that are simply not true. These ‘weeds’ can be removed from our lives (roots, tubers and all) and, when they are, correct beliefs about the Divine being and how S/He relates to us can begin to flourish.
Sacred writings, theological books, healthy churches, spiritual friends, meditation, being in nature, and loving ourselves will all help us with this journey.
Who knows, God/dess may also give us a hand!?!
This week we were in the garden trying to encourage some lettuce seedlings to grow. The recent rain had given them a head start but had also allowed some oxalis weeds to sprout as well. The problem was that we wanted the lettuce to flourish without the weeds strangling it. We decided that some judicious weeding could be the answer. There were two problems. Firstly, the two plants are remarkably similar in colour, making them tricky to discern. Secondly the oxalis was woven throughout the lettuce seedlings requiring great dexterity and control to extract them. What to do?
Well any good biblical scholar will tell you about the parable of the tares, where the farmer is encouraged to pull up the weeds that have been sown amongst his wheat. The farmer replies that he won’t pull up the tares, lest the wheat also be pulled up.
This seemed like poor advice to we gardeners, even if it was good spiritual advice to help souls get to heaven. This was the chosen moment when the battle for growing space was at its most critical, so we decided to weed anyway.
It was slow going and it taught us about how carefully you need to select the weed from around the seedling before plucking it out. And how easily the lettuce could be bruised by rough handling.
If you want to draw the parallel between gardening and helping souls, there is much to be said for carefully choosing words and actions when speaking to others about the Divine. Gone are the days, it seems, when you could plough through the crowd and give out spiritual direction to the multitudes. Today it seems to be a slow and individualised process. When it comes to souls, the Divine considers the needs of each individual (lettuce seedling) and takes time to remove the blockages (oxalis) from their path.
Well that is how it seemed to us on that cold Saturday morning, anyway.
I was a real person
My name is synonymous with sin
like Eve (I guess) and others
My name means ‘Man’s sin’
That is my legacy
That is the shame I must now shed
I was a real person
And when he saw me bathing
he thought I was an object
He wanted my hollywood-good-looks
He was a king, entitled
he thought – to own me
I was a real person
I had a beautiful husband
Uriah, who took my feminine flower
and loved me – with delicacy
I loved him
and I was his one and only
I was a real person
After the assault, I felt dirty
I hung my head in shame
I could not look into Uriah’s eyes
my beloved Uriah
Then, they sent him to death
I was a real person
After the murder, I was numb
On the inside I was dead
buried beside my Uriah
But I was summoned to give pleasure
to a king who didn’t have enough
I was a real person
After my baby died, I wept
This time I was allowed to grieve
the king had also lost a son
A prophet came to speak words
the long-awaited justice
I was a real person
I picked up the pieces
I birthed other children
learnt to live with strangers
washed and dressed like a queen
tried to comfort my soul
I was a real person
Had I said no at the beginning
like Vashti, or Abigail
the story would have differed
But I was young
And I wanted to live
I was a real person
My name has another meaning:
daughter of my oath
I made an oath once
It was a sacred oath:
‘Only you shall I love’
I am a real person
As we have come to understand our world differently through science and knowledge, we have also come to perceive the Divine differently. The patterns of ‘the heavenly bodies’ are governed by the rules of physics and do not require the hand of God to literally move them around each day. The water cycle does its thing and rain waters our crops, snow fills the mountaintops, mist rests in the valleys. We have seasons because of the tilt of the earth. We heal from meningitis because we have antibiotics. We enjoy biodiversity because we protect (and nourish) the habitat of other species. All these activities were considered the direct responsibility of God at various times in human history and He/She was worshiped based on the belief that the character of the Divine was linked to these activities on a regular basis. So, if the rains came, ‘God was pleased with us’. If the rains did not come, ‘God was punishing us’. If our child healed from fever, ‘God’s favour was upon us’, but if they died, ‘God has removed His/Her favour from us’.
So much of what we now understand as natural law was attributed to the direct action of the Divine in previous times. And, many people extrapolate this to presume that science will eventually eradicate any need for God at all. They believe that ‘the God of the gaps’ will disappear altogether.
My problem with this kind of thinking is that it presumes that the Divine Being exists primarily to perform tasks; tasks that we humans cannot or will not attend to. What if this is not true? One of the modern beliefs in the West that I find most extraordinary is that which belittles the Divine to being subject to the whims and fickleness of human creation/opinion. If God/dess does in fact exist, I suggest that He/She has a self-defined set of character traits, and also determines what daily activities and interactions are deserving of His/Her personal attention.
People who believe ‘the God of the gaps’ is dying simply because the Divine is not directly involved with the things that we previously believed He/She was about, perhaps need to alter their thinking about God/dess. Maybe the Divine is about other things? Maybe S/He sees different gaps? Maybe S/He is about relationship? Maybe S/He is about Love?
Scriptures tell us that ‘God is the same yesterday, today and forever’. The Divine’s character is ‘Faithful and True’ and able to be relied upon while the world around us changes. The seasons of life and nature create the experience of constantly ‘shifting sands’ in our mortal human lives. We struggle sometimes with our own adjustments and the way our closest relationships evolve and change with the passing of time on earth.
However, relationships must evolve; to remain vital, they must unfurl, grow, change, mature. Imagine a romantic relationship continuing forever in the high-energy state of obsession with one glorious (but in reality, flawed) human being. If nothing else, the limbic system would ‘burn out’. Meaningful relationships, whether they be friendships, parent-child or lover partnerships, must develop with time. So, what of our relationship with the Divine?
The Christian narrative tells us that in the beginning, when humans were freshly evolved (and/or created), God declared his/her delight in us: ‘very good’ and ‘made in my image; male and female’. We began to make choices; some were good, some were bad and some were ugly. Like an attentive parent of a young child, the Divine watched over us protectively, guided us and allowed us to discover our world in safety. We were taught consequences and given rules (or laws) to help us make good choices and be kind to one another. The earth provided what humans needed to grow and develop into adulthood under the watchful eye of a loving Creator. God spoke through nature, dreams, burning bushes, misty mountains, prophet/esses and even a donkey!
And then a time was reached when the Divine chose to presence her/himself alongside those image-bearers in human flesh. Jesus Christ was born as a baby onto the earth as fully human and fully God, and the Divine was now dwelling in human flesh amongst the people he/she loved. This was an intentional step (or evolution) towards intimacy; the distance between a perfectly loving God and mortal imperfect humans was being eroded. Christ lived, died and rose again to bridge that gap and secure a guiltless friendship between humankind and the Creator. People could now freely receive/give devotion in relationship with God based solely on belief in Christ and the love of God shown through him. And surely, this would have been enough for us.
But the Divine had even more generosity planned for us. When Christ returned to the heavenly realms, the Spirit (God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit that was in Christ) was sent to the earth to dwell within each person that chose to have faith in Christ, the God-person. The Spirit was given to comfort, guide, teach, counsel and be a guarantor of God’s eternal life within us. This level of intimacy between humans and the Divine is extraordinary and I am often overwhelmed by the deep respect and honour that has been given to us. Along with the constant companionship of the Spirit, God has also given us advocacy through prayer, spiritual gifts and the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc).
I am greatly moved and thankful for the way God has chosen to evolve his/her relationship with human beings over time. My hope is that we may all continue to grow into this profound love relationship with our Maker, and that the freedom intended for us becomes a reality.
The word “faith” creates many impressions in my mind. From the faith to heal the sick to the faith to move mountains, the common associations come with doing things or seeing them get done. Then there is the faith that is linked to believing things that we cannot prove.
For me, though, the strongest connection to the word “faith” is with trust. Trust that the circumstances I find myself in will turn out alright, or trust that someone else has ultimate control over the universe. This is the kind of faith that I think about the most frequently.
So that then leads to questions about what does trust look like? Can trust sometimes look like inactivity? When is it time to trust and when is it time to take action yourself?
For me I think I know when I have faith at a particular time when I can go to bed at night and leave my concerns behind, or when I can get up in the morning without being preoccupied with the concerns of the future.
And that only comes about when I remember that the Divine One loves me and cares about me.
I hope that you can find comfort in that.
Last time we looked at Night and Day as a metaphor for our spiritual journey and now I want to talk about a similar theme: Darkness and Light. The reason for this is that I had a minor realisation a few weeks ago and wanted to explore it further.
I have always known in the physical world that there is no duality between light and darkness, that darkness is just the absence of light. Light comes from photons given off by excited atoms or by chemical and nuclear reactions, but darkness has no particle to transport it around. And yet in some of the world’s religions there is seen to be a force of darkness that opposes the force of light (perhaps God, Love or The Universe). Is there any parallel there at all?
My realisation was to consider the world from the viewpoint of a source of light. From this view there will be colour and contrast, shades of grey and varied tones. But there won’t be a beam of darkness into the world creating “shadows” of its own. This then made me wonder why we are so intent on binary dualism. Why, if someone has one view, someone else has to have an opposing view?
The problem is that we like binary dualism. We like to pit one extreme against another extreme. It makes for better politics and media reporting. So we jump into opposing camps in all sorts of imaginary arguments and are apparently forced to be fully attached to one or the other. Sometimes we may not wish to be so committed to one side or the other, and sometimes there is no “opposite” argument or stance, really just a differing of views. It is a bit like saying what is the opposite of walking – is it running or sitting?
In the same way in our spirituality, we can be tempted to classify everything into the opposing camps of good and evil. Instead we could look at people as at various stages of enlightenment, seeing the journey from different angles, called to travel different paths. This frees us up from deciding if others are “good” or “evil”, and allows us to only compare ourselves with the One.
I am not 100% sure of the parallels between my revelation about the nature of light and its application to the spiritual powers but it did make me aware of avoiding getting sucked in to the perils of binary dualism.
Let there be light!
God describes him/herself to a man called Moses saying, ‘I AM who I AM’ and ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness’.
So, what is compassion? I think of it as keeping company in passion; feeling with another person (or ourselves) and staying physically and emotionally present with one another. Compassion is a part of love that renounces fear/awkwardness in order to prevent a person feeling abandoned or alone. The expression of compassion relies on courage to take part in the feelings of another soul and a commitment to understanding the importance of emotions.
This song is one of the most beautiful expressions of compassion (God’s) that I have come across. Enjoy!