Monday, May 18, 2020

Sink down to the seed

Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24 NIV)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, "All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever." And this is the word that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22-25 NIV)

One of the things people - myself included - seem to find most difficult in these days of the pandemic is enforced inability to act. It is as though we long to do something - anything! - to break out of this inaction. But strange, powerful things happen in stillness. Seeds lie dormant over winter in order to germinate germinate in spring; insect larvae, quiet in their pupae, become butterflies, or bright beetles that scamper in sunlight.

The quiet heart, if it accepts inaction, can allow God's wonders to come to be. Waiting is an act of patience, an openness to what may come. St Romuald's brief rule for Camaldolese monks ends,

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting,
content with the grace of God,
like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing
but what his mother brings him.

And Isaac Pennington put it:

Give over thine own willing, give over thy own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee and be in thee and breathe in thee and act in thee; and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of Life, which is its portion.

(Quaker faith & practice 26.70)


Thomas D said...

Thank you so much, Mike, for this post. Yes.

It's the hardest thing in the world for me, a big-city American whose teenage years coincided with the era of MTV, to be at rest, to let things germinate and gestate, to be patient and silent and let things slowly grow.

I have a dear poetfriend in Wisconsin who grew up in very rural Illinois. Her poetry combines alertness and patience so beautifully. She lets her observations develop and mature into fullness. (I'm always thrusting my early drafts on my unfortunate friends, as if tugging at their sleeve and saying "whaddya think?")

But certainly, in prayer as in the arts, nothing is to be gained by haste or by a frantic spirit. To trust that we are sustained. (That last word is big with me nowadays.) To trust that there is an inexhaustible font of sustenance from which we can draw our strength and restore our flagging powers. And yes, this means letting words subside for a time, and racing thoughts, and agitations and distractions and jollies and kerfuffles.

Thanks again for this salutary reminder.

Mike Farley said...

Thank you, Thomas. Yes, isn't it hard "to be patient and silent and let things slowly grow? CS Lewis said somewhere, "We must leave God to dress the wound and not keep on taking peeps under the bandage for ourselves." And an old poet friend of mine - from Vermont as it happens - said that at least 3/4 of writing a poem was doing nothing whatever. And she was right about more than poetry - her favourite Christian author was Jonathan Edwards, who memorably sad, "You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary"! (I'm not sure about the Calvinist assumptions that probably underlay that remark of Edwards', but still...)

I grew up by the sea, and though I spent my early adult life in London, and travelling, I've always been drawn back to natural processes, to the changing seasons, and their demands and blessings. Hence the farming side of my life, I guess!

Every blessing