This lovely sunflower is a volunteer in my garden. That means I didn’t plant it. Sometimes volunteers come from the naturalizing of plants. Sometimes they come from birds. And sometimes a volunteer shows up from long dormant seeds that have finally received enough water to sprout the life hidden within.
How seeds come to life in unlikely places is such a mystery! All the conditions for growth have to be there for the seed to be successful. Sometimes the conditions look lush and it makes perfect sense a plant would sprout. Sometimes the conditions look harsh and it’s amazing a seed would even sprout not to mention take root and flourish! I do some preparation for my garden but really I am a neglectful gardener. When I see a volunteer thriving in my yard I’m thrilled! That new life in an unlikely place makes me think of a picture from my life.
My adult life looked pretty straightforward: finish college, earn a teaching credential, start teaching, get married, start a family. Pretty standard stuff. But the path wasn’t straight and easy. I came around a bend and a Big Boulder blocked my path. There was no where to go! I sat down, overwhelmed by this roadblock in my otherwise perfect life. I sank into despair. As an untrained listener, I thought whatever happened next was on me to figure out.
I spent a lot of time trying to see how to get over this Boulder right in front of me. I tried the climbing technique of “bouldering”: finding hand holds and foot holds to scale the side of it; I tried working my way around it; I even tried chipping away at it, all in hopes of breaking it down to continue on the path I thought my life should be on. I made some headway and climbed up almost to the top ready to jump over onto the other side when my foot slipped and I slid down a different side, crashing to the bottom, ending not on the path, but off in the weeds! I was a mess! Trying to make something happen on my own without seeking help landed me in a heap and back into despair!
It was after this second detour that I finally caught a clue; I can’t navigate the path of my life without guidance. I needed to seek wisdom, learn to listen and apply wisdom to my life. I submitted myself to the One who transplanted the seed of my life and began in me the process of sprouting, growing and bringing forth new life.
Learning to listen to the Voice is a process. I thought there was a to do list to work through that would equal great growth; “I’ve done my chores now bless me Father” kind of relationship. It was a starting place for sure. But God calls us forth to so much more from so much less. He wants each of us to simply be with Him. Learning to listen to His voice whisper in the wind, speak in the hush of snowfall, or call over the ocean waves crashing on the shore has taken lots of practice. Other than the Word, the most powerful little book that has been a tool of listening for me is Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Learning to listen to and be with God was Brother Lawrence’s greatest aim. Whether peeling potatoes in the kitchen or doing daily chores or in times of prayer with the brethren, Brother Lawrence developed the habit of listening to the One Who is always present.
We can too. There are so many challenges to listening in our information saturated culture with the “entertain me now” mindset; the challenge to push back against the noise to find even a moment of silence and solitude can be more of a battle than a challenge! If you are in this process of learning to listen, I’d love to share in this challenge with you. We need to be in community with others who, like Brother Lawrence, desire to be “present to the Presence”.