I’ve spent a lot of time in the last couple of weeks with my hands deep in dirt. Between weeding, tilling, weeding, planting, weeding, landscaping and weeding, a significant portion of my wife’s and my time has been spent outdoors trying to make green things greener. While spending time in the yard and the garden isn’t my favorite pastime, over the years I have learned to accept it as a necessary investment of time and energy. Growing things is a dynamic, not a static process. It requires constant tending to ensure a result.
The same can be said about our very lives. Life and faith is a gift of God, and it is holy, and precious. But like anything that has the potential to grow, our life and our faith need to be tended to bring growth about. Physically, we take care of our bodies; emotionally, we seek healthy relationships and spiritually, we tend to the faith we have been given.
I have good friends who take care of their spiritual selves like clockwork. One told me that “I’m up every morning at 6am and I have a half-hour of prayer and devotions before I do anything else that way.” I look at people who can do this and I just shudder, and wonder what that must be like.
My mind doesn’t work that way. My life is far too frenetic and my schedule too chaotic. Don’t get me wrong. I pray, and I have some form of devotional time every day. But sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes it’s at my desk. Other times it’s on the patio, or in some circumstances it’s while I’m driving somewhere.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes: “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” (Ephesians 3:16-17)
Too often we think of our faith like a vending machine. “We put something in…and we get something back.” Faith is not a transaction. Rather, faith is the opening of a window between our lives and the holy. Faith is trusting that through God’s Holy Spirit, already present with us, our faith is strengthened. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that prayer and time spent with God is unnecessary. And whether you do that on a rigorous or a flexible schedule isn’t the issue.
God is not asking us to respond to a spiritual checklist. God is asking us to recognize the window that the Holy Spirit opens between God and us. God is asking us to trust in the Spirit, and God is asking us that when we pray, when we spend devotional time, when we enter the presence of God, that we look to see God’s presence, and what God is up to.
Growth in our faith is a dynamic, not a static process. God is already with us. To tend and grow our faith is to open our hearts and minds to recognize the work of God within. And Christ will dwell in our hearts through faith, and we will be rooted and grounded in love.
This piece first appeared in the Owatonna People’s Press on June 10, 2017