reacquainting with an old friend
This past weekend I was at Samish Island for a church Fine Arts retreat. It was a weekend full of great music, wonderful people, and lots of creative energy. There were lots of lovely moments. My favourite part of the weekend was sitting on the beach on Saturday morning and visiting with an old friend: my favourite tree. I met this tree about two years ago, and I say "met" because this tree has its own personality and distinctive character that seems to give it its own subjectivity.
I met this tree in the summer when I was approaching my last year of my MDiv program at theology school. I
was trying to figure out what I was going to do once I graduated, and was feeling rather disjointed and frightened about not knowing what was next for me. So I met this tree that has become a living metaphor for what theology school has been like for me. The tree clings to the side of a cliff with many of its roots exposed from being battered by the elements. It seems to sit rather precariously, yet it has massive roots that reach deeply into the hillside. There are other plants that live amidst its root system, and there are other trees that surround it further back in the hill, which will hold their ground long after my tree succumbs to the elements.
It is a metaphor for theology school for me mainly because of the roots: I feel like one of the things that this work has done to me is cause me to dig deep and expose the deep roots of myself and my theology, as well as the roots of my church and the larger faith tradition I belong to. It's not always a pretty process. Sometimes parts get exposed that I wish I didn't have to see. Sometimes it feels like I'm going to fall over. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to just pretend those roots aren't there, and cut off the life that flows to and from them... but like the tree, which surprisingly still has sap running through even the most dead-looking roots, manages to hold on and maintain its vitality.
Last year I went to the beach to see my tree, and was afraid that the fallen tree I saw stretched across the rocky shore was my tree - but no, my tree was still there. This year I was afraid the terrible wind storms we had in the late fall all along the coast might have spelled the end of my tree's life, but no, it is still clinging to the cliffside, rooting itself more and more deeply all the time, exposing itself more and more all the time.
The tree was a key image for me in my own discernment of my vocation. It helped me discover that I enjoy that process of revealing roots, digging deeper, and always risking more and more. For me, that is what the theological academy promises - the possibility of constant revealing, deepening, and risking.
It's amazing the things that the world around us can teach us. It's amazing the wisdom that seems to be built into creation itself. Stop, look, listen, sniff, touch, taste and see what God has asked the world to teach you.