It is almost time for the participants in the Deeper Roots program to gather near Nashville for our first weekend together, and my anticipation is building in a combination of excitement, wonder, and anxiety. All sorts of wonderful things are possible when a group of intentional souls like these Friends come together; the possibilities fill one’s imagination.
At the same time I find myself increasingly anxious about outcomes and results. What if the whole project is a flop? What if no one feels they’ve gained anything worth the time and money they are investing in participation? I want to store up silos of stuff to talk about, bushels of insights to share with the other participants; I want to ensure that all our available time is filled with appropriate and useful material for spiritual enlightenment. I want to be able to be certain that everyone carries away a sense that the outcome of the program has been worth their investment.
But the School of Christ is a garden, not a guaranteed certificate of deposit, and as gardeners our responsibility is in our inputs, not in outcomes. Here in North Carolina we have been busy in our own garden for more than a month now, trucking in organic compost, building new and improved fencing, assembling new raised beds, starting seeds and transplanting perennials. As the season progresses we will be watering plants as needed, adding support for tomatoes and other climbing vines, pruning them as needed and watching for harmful pests. All these things can be very helpful inputs toward a successful garden, and they are all things we can control and accomplish on our own.
What makes the garden worthwhile, however, is the miracle of life that is beyond our control. Life in the sprouting seed, the growing plant and the maturing fruit for harvest is an unmerited gift of God. We do what we can to prepare the garden for God’s gift, and to nurture the gift as God develops it day by day, but it is God’s gift and God’s miracle that gives the garden meaning.
This is true of our life as spiritual beings as it is of our work as gardeners. The Seed is the unmerited gift of God to each one of us; we cannot create it or bring it to life of our own efforts. We can only prepare ourselves to receive God’s gift, and order our lives to nurture and sustain that growing Life as it comes to maturity and we can share in the ongoing fruits of the Spirit. Nothing I can do will guarantee that anything at all will grow in our garden. We prepare the soil and plant every year in the confidence that God is faithful and God’s promise is true; we seek to be ready to receive Life at God’s hands. Nothing I can do will guarantee that anything good at all will happen in Deeper Roots. In our individual lives scattered across the continent, we prepare the soil of our souls to receive the seeds of God’s new planting in confidence that God is faithful and God’s promise is true; that wherever we gather in God’s name, God will be present with us. We seek to be ready to receive Life at God’s hands.