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Playing in the Dirt

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” ~Henry David Thoreau

I spent yesterday morning playing in the dirt. I was preparing my garden. It’s a bit of a tradition not just for me but for most people in this part of the country; the snow is (mostly) gone but the risk of frost remains. So, the May long weekend sees a lot of people out in the yard, playing in the dirt.

Admittedly, there was a lot of work involved: removing the debris that flew in over the winter, picking out tree branches and sticks that had fallen over the fence, the removal of last year’s straggling vines. Then came the tilling, and cultivating, and mixing in of new compost and peat. My garden’s not terribly large, but it’s big enough that this was enough work to give me some blisters and sore muscles today.

But it’s worth it. Because right now it’s a rectangle of dirt in the corner of the yard. But I don’t see it just as an area of prepared earth, I see it for the potential it offers. I see it for what it will become later this year, after a little bit more work goes into it: it will be a vegetable garden. There will be more work, of course. There will be plotting and planting, weeding and watering.

I will be able to tend this garden, fully aware that the growth is not my doing. My role will only be a small part of the process: I haven’t made the seeds, I haven’t made the dirt. The seeds hold within them everything that they will become, their entire potential is wrapped up in that small dried packaging that I’m carefully placing into the soil. The soil itself will provide the nourishment and space for those seeds; I can help make it hospitable for the seed but again I’m only working with what has been provided for me. And while the potential is there, there may be external factors that remain completely beyond my control: insects or birds may enjoy the seeds before they grow, too much or too little water or sun can hinder growth, weeds or seeds planted too close together may be problematic. Yet the potential outcome is worth the preparation, the work, the regular tending.

So I choose to see beyond the present state of the patch of dirt, to see the potential in my garden. I see the benefit of working with what is before me to try and make it bloom into is full potential.

So too, I think we are called to see the potential in ourselves and in one another. We are all of us living, growing beings, starting from seeds bearing all manner of potential. We’re all waiting to be carefully planted and nurtured so that we might grow. We want to be fruitful and productive, a source of life and joy, a living out of our potential.

And yet, here we are, all of us a work in progress. All of us not quite there yet.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think we’re all called to continual growth – personal and spiritual. We’re called to constantly examine our own selves to see when we need to be tended, when we need to be spiritually fed, when we need to be freed from the weeds that are invading our space and preventing our growth. We’re called to respond when we see that it’s a time to grow and blossom, when we realise the risks around us are not enough to hold us back, when we need to lean on others to support us as we grow, when we realise that we are not the only ones in this space providing goodness.

We’re called to see in ourselves that there is a great potential that has been given us, and that we are encouraged to make that a reality. We’re called to see the potential that is there, at it’s many levels of development. We’re called to see and celebrate that potential – in ourselves, our families, our neighbours, our communities. We’re called to see not just what is there right now, but what will become, when we allow God to tend to our growth.

My garden has a “Grow, darn it!” sign in it… how do we apply the same principle to our spiritual growth?

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I'm a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I'm passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.
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