Yesterday at Samuel School one of the class sessions was about spiritual growth. I appreciated the main premise of this discussion: we're always changing, always transforming spiritually, but hte question is whether we're becoming transformed toward who we want to be spiritually, or away from who we truly want to be.
The speaker talked about several fairly popular images which are incredibly helpful, including the vine, and the potter and clay. One thing that struck me, which he just said in passing, was that a plant or tree has the same mass of roots as what you can see above ground. To me this is an amazing thought. I tend to think of the plant as the part above ground, the part that is most necessary because it receives light and produces seeds. I knew that roots are important because they find the necessary water, but I never knew that there was such an equilibrium of what shows above ground and what's going on below.
To me this is a great analogy for our spiritual lives. I think Quakers try to think of spirituality this way: we need the time of just being quiet, becoming centered, focusing inward and not doing anything public, and then after a while we can do some public ministry. Sometimes, though, I think we get confused. In unprogrammed meetings often people sit in the silence, perhaps even at home, and never let their spiritual life come to flower above the ground. They get plenty of water but no light, and they can't create any fruit. In programmed meetings where there are always ministries to be done it's easy to do spiritual things in public and with others but to lack the roots of time spent in stillness and waiting, drawing deeply on the underground rivers of God's presence and life-giving power. Without roots it's easy for any wind to blow the plant over, or for harsh sun to dry it up.
I hope to lead a balanced life, allowing my roots to be fed in the stillness, and being willing to put up branches, grow leaves, and prduce the fruit of the ministry to which I'm called in the very core of my being, as an apple tree naturally bears apples in their season.