Friday, April 19, 2013

Let A Thousand Flowers Bloom

As a part-time pastor, I often have time on my hands.  Not enough that I feel aimless, but life doesn't shimmer daily with stress and busyness.  I write.  I study.  I read.  I meditate.  I take walks.

That means, of course, there's no excuse for the laundry going occasionally undone.  Not that it does.  Ahem.

As spring has come again, I've found myself spending more and more time outside away from the screens and boxes.  I've been out in the dirt of our modest suburban lot, digging and planting and watering.  Another strawberry patch has appeared, across the drive from the one that went in last year.  A few more blueberry bushes now grace the front of our house.  A little bit of yard has yielded to a tilled stretch of earth, in which green beans are slowly germinating.

My wife calls me "Farmer Dave," although on this scale, it's really just gardening.

What it is not is a chore.  Mowing the grass?  That's a chore.  I do mow, of course, but the yard itself is just a living carpet.  A messy living carpet, at that.

Our lawn is not a bland monoculture, not a perfectly manicured patch of organic astroturf.  I run our four-stroke mulching mower at the highest setting, so the grass grows thick and shaggy.  Oh, the boys and I can still toss a football and run about on it, but it stays long.  More blade means more surface area for photosynthesis, way I figure it, and that's good for both the plants and creation.

It's mostly green, but in the spring, it's dappled with the colors of the other plants that I'm totally content having as part of the yard.  As I push our rusty but trusty old Honda across the yard on its tiptoes, the flowers remain as it passes over.   There are the purples of violets, the purple and white of irises, the soft pink-white of clover.  Here and there, the yellows of buttercups.

With the coming of warmer weather, across them now dance pollinators, bumblebees and...joy of joys this year...honeybees.  The honeybees had been missing the past few years, but they are back now, at least for the moment.

And those bees also stop at the strawberries...and next year, at the apple trees I'm planning on putting in.

It reminds me, just a bit, of the importance of letting things be.  When our lawn is perfect and uniform and devoid of any life but the life we have decided we will permit to live there, it may appeal to our desire for control.  But when we inflict that desire on the world, we break connections that we didn't realize were important.  No flowers in our yard means less to feed and attract the pollinators.  Fewer pollinators means a weaker ecosystem.

The ecology of congregations is a bit like that.  If a faith community is just one thing, uniform and devoid of variety, we make ourselves vulnerable spiritually.  That reinforcement might be reassuring.  Nothing validates our sense of self like wrapping ourselves in a blanket of sameness.   But it means we are less likely to adapt to the world, and less able to stand in meaningful relationship to the stranger.

And that isn't a healthy way for us to be.

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