My readings for the Academy for Spiritual Formation have led to me doing a lot of contemplation. Today I was reading through “Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God” by Macrina Wiederkehr. Here’s the passage that led to contemplation today: (24)
“Then suddenly you find yourself back in those in-between times. Distressing and boring as these in-between times of the season may seem; they can also be nourishing spaces for the soul. This waiting between dying and rising is like being in the tomb. It is a waiting room that is essential for spiritual growth. In this quiet tomb-place we feel, once again, that ancient tugging at the heart. We experience being drawn, like a magnet to the divine.”
Sister Wiederkehr had been speaking on the beauty she finds in the in-between times of life. She enjoys walking as the sun rises and sets. She enjoys the time between seasons. She finds these are the best times to romance the Word of God.
I’m not a morning person and I often put my children to bed around the time of sunset most of the year. I know that the dawn is beautiful, but that is not where I experience my in-between moments. The place where I have been experiencing the in-between moments like Sister Wiederkehr describes is in my garden.
My garden is currently in an in-between place. Sister Wiederkehr explored the in-between nature of winter turning into spring, but I also connect more to that in-between place when spring is turning into summer. The plants have started to take root, the leaves are growing, and there are already a few blossoms on the tomato plants. There is growth and in time the pepper-plant in the image above will begin to create food for my family.
Spring is a time of hope, promise, and busyness in preparing the garden. Summer and autumn are seasons when these promises become a reality when the harvest comes in to be canned, frozen, and eaten. This is that in-between place where there is occasional weeding, occasional watering, and a lot of waiting.
I often feel like I experience these same moments in my spiritual life. I rush to make plans after reading a book, organize a wonderful event, or have a revelation that begins to change my outlook on life. I complete what needs to be done and then simply have to wait to see what will happen. This time of waiting in-between moments can be boring, but I agree with Sister Wiederkehr. These moments are essential for spiritual growth.
By my garage, at the base of a simple flower there will soon grow a tomato. The tomato will be small and green. I can watch it day in and day out. The tomato will be ripe on the day it turns ripe and not a day before then. As much as I would like to rush things, the tomato requires time, sun, and water to thrive. The tomato requires good soil, good nutrients, and time. I have provided sun, water, good soil, and nutrients to the best of my ability. Now, I need to have patience.
Spiritual lives require patience. A healthy spiritual life does not grow all at once. There may be mountain-top experiences and times when we receive revelation that shakes us to the core, but most of the time we need to have patience with God and with ourselves. One of the few times that God grew a plant overnight for a person of God in scripture it was almost immediately cut down by a worm to help teach Jonah a lesson. God can do all things and that includes asking us to be patient and wait.
In my experience Sister Wiederkehr is right about the silent, tomb-like places. The quiet-places are necessary to our growth as individuals. The silences also teach us how to hear God in the stillness and to feel that magnetic draw towards the divine. I invite all of us (including myself) to know the wisdom and longing that comes with patience in the quiet places of our spiritual lives.