Growth, as Life by Blake Jesse Shetler

Growth, as life, is nonlinear, adaptive, ever changing (read Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown!) Who can predict the shape a plant will take after it is sown? I think of the next door neighbors of 40P, who have a lovely crafted front yard, full of large plants and bushes (which before too long will start to bloom once again), enclosed by a fence. Along this fence grows a series of viney bushes, which as of now are barren tendrils. The gardeners have attempted to fasten the branches to the fence with a type of velcro material, perhaps with the attention to control, shape, or mold. However, the spindly limbs have grown according to their own nature, spiraling out, sometimes encroaching onto the sidewalk, sometimes bending back towards the house.

This metaphor touches on a core theme of the past year and a half I’ve spent with Life Together and Nuevo Amanecer. Coming from a low church background, and working at a Lutheran church plant (see! It’s right there in the term! Plant), I get to go deep into liturgy, both in a single service, as well as the liturgical year. I feel nourished and centered by the rhythms of the church year, it provides a kind of moulding, but what comes out of is anyone’s (and no one’s) guess. I find God in the shape that things take of their own accord, at the direction of the Holy Spirit, just like the plants growing on the neighbor’s fence--I find myself growing in ways I wouldn’t have conceived of a year ago, and having more faith in trying things out, that God will act out of all our efforts and life will take the shape that it needs.

In the same way the liturgical year (as well as Life Together’s rhythms of monthly trainings) shapes me, the same thing happens in community work. We try to provide containers and make spaces for change, for movements, for relationships, but how the Spirit will move is something anomalous, unpredictable, unforeseeable--and all we can do is roll with it. I also think of the Friday morning after Valentine’s Day. I woke up, as usual, at 5:30, walked down two flights of stairs to encounter a Christmas tree full of presents thoughtfully selected for each member of 40P. What a wild surprise! After putting our heads together, we still don’t know who coordinated these gifts, and to me it’s yet another manifestation of the unknown happenings that grow out of our preconceived notions of what our life is.

Lent is a season to reflect, to prepare, to observe the life that’s being lived through you. I think it’s no coincidence that Easter coincides with Spring, ushering in new life, new plants, new growth; resurrection. In this time of waiting, I invite you to observe the changes, and do what you can to respond in kind.