A wise mentor once gently informed my (highly anxious) younger self that ministry is a lot like the parable of the sower and the seed in scripture. She reminded me that I can scatter seeds with wild abandon, but I should not expect to be any more successful than Farmer G-d. Some seeds will grow and some won’t – because some are fertile and others are damaged or sterile. Some will produce abundantly and others will struggle to put up one tiny stalk of green. That is the nature of seeds, and the nature of the environment into which they fall. And more times than we are aware, seeds take longer to put down roots than we imagined they would. Some seeds (like jack pine and redwood) lie dormant for years, for generations, until a raging forest fire cracks them open and clears the ground around them, allowing them to begin their life cycle.
Almost two decades later, I am still trying to learn this. I am trying to learn to relinquish control over those things beyond my control. [Some people frequently suggest that I should give up some of my control over things I can control, too, but that is a different issue.] I have come to understand that this is an issue of trust, and trust seems to be at odds with my Vermont Yankee heritage which maintains that “G-d helps those who help themselves.” Somewhere along the line I learned (unfortunately and wrongly) that ‘helping myself’ and ‘trusting’ were opposites. Somehow I learned to equate ‘trusting’ with (the Yankee anathema!) sitting back and twiddling my thumbs and waiting for someone else (parents, mentors, teachers, G-d) to fulfill my responsibility for me.
So, in this time of planting seeds and entrusting them to their own inherent creative power, I realize that it is really past time that I became more intentional about trust. Oddly, I am made more aware of this because an early and repetitive series of hailstorms here in Colorado destroyed many planters full of flowers and not a few of my personal tomato plants. I found myself reassuring the good friend whose garden I share that if this was not a stellar tomato season, so be it. We’d regroup and replant next year. So, there is a deep well of wisdom somewhere inside me that I can tap on this issue. I know with a profound knowing that not only the health of the seeds themselves, but the vagaries of weather, water, and soil (whether external or internal) have a lot to do with the abundance or sparseness of the harvest.
You may have no problem with trust at all. If so, what follows is probably not all that useful, but if anywhere in your life you are finding trust hard, maybe the questions I am pondering might help. Maybe you can’t seem to trust that you are fulfilling your vocation, that your spouse really does love you, that your (young adult) child will get through adolescence safely, that you can face the chronic illness the doctor just diagnosed, that you can make it through bankruptcy (divorce, depression, alienation from a friend or family member, fear, public shame), that you will ever write another book (close another deal, get pregnant again, paint another picture, get another job), or that you will ever get another night of good sleep.
* What are the events or experiences in your life that tilt you toward trust or away from trust?
[I need to be really specific when I think about these. I find that I need to name particular instances when I feel comfortable leaning into someone else’s strength or confidence, as well as instances when I feel (or felt) betrayed or abandoned.]
* What early messages did you receive about trust, responsibility, control, dependence, hard work, independence, success, failure? What values were attached to these messages?
* Where do you plant seeds most often: work? family life? avocation? places of witness (work for justice, for compassion, on behalf of the oppressed, the poor)? in the community?
* How patient are you able to be about the growth of those seeds?
* Do you tend to abandon commitments if you don’t see harvests? If so, how do you feel when you notice you are doing this? If not, what inner or outer supports (or people) empower you to continue to wait?
* What cultural messages encourage or discourage waiting?
Sometimes it helps me to think of role models who cast seeds in very rocky soil and kept on keeping on through thick and thin, believing that those seeds would eventually become life-giving abundance: Dorothy Day with the Catholic Workers’ Movement, Father Damien caring for lepers, Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity ministering to the untouchables, Ang San Suu Kyi under house arrest or Nelson Mandela in prison for decades.
I offer this reflection for the week:
Sacred seed-words sprouting
as plea, prayer, cry, song, prophecy.
Yearning roots reaching into meaning…
Trust-seeds quietly burrowing
deeper and deeper
until tears and darkness
break you open
into wisdom: profuse and ripe.
Be abundant harvest in my spirit.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2012, Immram Chara, LLC
[The nasturtium photo is available as a special order card or print through my Etsy shop.]