This week I am taking a summer course at Regent College. I had looked forward to spending time in Vancouver and sitting in a classroom with other students, but it is now a virtual course. I will interact with the professor and fellow classmates via Zoom like so many other meetings and courses. It is a reasonable facsimile, but still second best for a course, especially as I recall the beauty of the UBC campus in late June.
One of the textbooks for the course (The Cultivated Life, Susan S. Phillips, InterVarsity Press, 2015) purposely mixes metaphors and refers to spiritual growth as being both rooted like a plant in a garden and a journey in which we continue to progress and get closer to our distant destination. She speaks of needing to stop and put down roots, wait and listen, and to spend time in Sabbath; but she also speaks of needing to progress and take a next step. She uses the image of “a tree that walks” to convey her meaning.
One of her illustrations looks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa in 1995 in which she says the country and the world paused in order to heal and seek forgiveness. The chair of the commission was Bishop Desmond Tutu and he allowed the process to take its full course.
“He brought people to a holy stop, lending compassion to the process and marking it with awe. He was the walking tree of Scripture, planted by streams of living water and walking the way of truth. He cooperated with the divine Logos that shelters and gathers as well as speaks…. Any morally or spiritually significant conversation must be preceded and followed by listening.”
These words of being rooted, listening, conversing, and walking the way of truth are exceptionally valuable for me at this point in my life. Presently, I have wrapped up one job and have not yet settled into a next role. My usual tendency to “hurry” and “do,” is getting in the way, when I know that what is needed right now is to “slow down” and “be.” I am reminded of one of Tolkein’s tales (told within the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) in which two Hobbits, Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took, enlist the help of the Ents, (the Ents are themselves walking trees). The Ents convene an Entmoot, or meeting of the Ents, and Merry and Pippin are anxious for a response; but the Ents, known for their slow deliberations in which they may take several months to come to a decision, test the patience of the Hobbits who sense that a quick decision is necessary. The interplay between impatient Hobbits and deliberating Ents must be much like my own impatient pleading before God. In a time when I have been given space to rest and Sabbath, without worry of food on the table or roof over my head, I find my anxious mind whining about what the future holds, what my next role will be, and how I will survive. God, the ever patient, deliberate provider, hears my pleas and knows that there is yet time and encourages me to have patience and to use this time to be better rooted knowing that there will be plenty of time for moving on to the next thing.
Am I alone in this? I think not. This time in our culture has trained us to move with frenetic pace, as we are always on, always working, always responding, always seeking to enhance our image, and always looking for more. The deliberate, intentional, cultivated life is a necessity that is easily crowded out by the “tyranny of the urgent.” As with most of the writing on this blog, this is first a call to myself to live an intentional life, and then secondly to you my reader to consider this need in your own life as well. Today can be a day for listening, waiting, and rooting in the deliberate, cultivated life. Let us commit to it together.
 The Cultivated Life, Susan S. Phillips, InterVarsity Press, 2015, chapter 4.
 Charles E. Hummel phrase.