Intentionally Ordinary – the water of life

by Andy Wade

watering the gardenI was a bit ambitious in the garden this spring. I decided to completely re-work the design but didn’t think through all the various implications of what I was doing.

The previous year I had finally gotten my drip watering system all nicely laid out. Now, with this new garden, it all had to be done again. That takes time, something I’m a bit short on. So for the first two months of spring I found myself out in the garden, hose in hand, watering the thirsty plants.

Nothing too extraordinary about that. Or was there? During this time we experienced a few weeks of unusually dry weather, even hot at times. My young plants needed my attention and, as it turned out, I needed theirs.

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” Mark 4:3-8

garden pathsWandering the new, curvy paths in the garden, I discovered the design inspiring imagination to spring forth from deep within. This was part of my plan, to deliberately move from rectangular raised beds and wide, straight paths, to curves and circles and shapes that more naturally mimic the designs of God in nature.

What I also discovered was that the hose didn’t maneuver this new design with the same ease as I did. I had to be careful, guiding the hose down pathways and around corners so as not to accidentally rip out the young plants. How often, I wondered, am I like the hose in the hands of God? My path is often the one of least resistance, inadvertently damaging relationships and creation carefully planted in my life by a loving God. But when I pay attention, when I listen directly to God, and to the voice of God speaking through those placed in my life, I bend, I form, or rather conform, to the beautiful paths of God.

I squeeze the trigger on the nozzle. Water flows. God, my soul is dry and thirsts for the water of your Spirit. Drench me with the water of life. Fill me with the life-giving nourishment of your love. Amen.

As I water the various plants I realize how very different they are. Some can handle the steady stream of the “soaker” setting. For other plants this setting would damage them, they need the gentle “mist” setting to water their tender roots. The new seeds are particularly vulnerable to flooding from too much water all at once.

 Lord, you know exactly how to water our thirsty souls. There are times I need the full force and flood of your life-giving rains. Other times I’m like the delicate seed: I need your mist to cover me, nourish me, and gently coax your life within me to burst through my hard exterior.  

Help me to see the lives and situations around me with your eyes, the eyes of the True Master Gardener. Help me to walk in your ways, discerning when it’s time to soak and when it’s time to mist your love through me to the world. And when I’m dry and thirsty, help me to recognize and embrace the many and various ways you pour into me the water of life. Amen.

It’s all pretty ordinary, just a garden in need of water. But when I pay attention, when I’m spiritually awake to the lessons of God in all of life, the simple act of watering the garden becomes a transformative experience, simultaneously drawing me closer to God and closer to God’s amazing creation. And so the lesson continues…

I’m tempted to get out there every day and water the plants. But for many of them, this is just not good. New seeds need to be kept moist to sprout. But as the plants, mature, daily watering can actually hinder their growth. When the water flows easily from the surface, the plants develop a shallow root system. In the wind (and we have plenty of wind in Hood River, Oregon!) they topple over because they have no depth. In particular, my peppers and tomatoes need deep roots to grow strong. I have to fight my temptation to soak them every day.

How like our own spiritual growth! In the beginning, when God finally breaks through in our lives, we’re often surrounded by people and situations which keep this new seed of faith moist so it can sprout and grow. Many of us want to stay in that garden with its abundant water. But what easily happens is that we grow up, but don’t set down deep roots of faith. When life’s gusts intrude into our protected sanctuary we bend, we break, and become uprooted.

I believe God intends for us to go through dry seasons. God is not being mean-spirited, but rather encouraging us to grow deeper. During those dry spells, and I’m emerging from one right now, we are forced to work harder at our faith. We have to be more determined, more intentional about reading scripture, reflecting on life, and entering into worship.

It’s this intentionality that causes our roots to grow strong and deep. The water of God’s Spirit is not always just on the surface; we have to search it out, penetrate the depths of God’s love and purposes, and in the process, discover that God is not absent, God is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than we can imagine. (Ephesians 3:14-21) When we settle for drinking surface water we miss out on the vast nature of God.

Where do you discover God in the ordinary places of life? How do these encounters transform the “ordinary” into a practice in listening to, and growing deeper, in Christ?

Read the first post in this series HERE

For a little different perspective on water, see Christine’s post, “Blessing the Water of God”, on Godspace.

This is the second in a series on ordinary spirituality. In our busy and chaotic world it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Not only do daily spiritual practices often suffer, finding God in the ordinary becomes nearly impossible. In my next several posts I will be exploring the spiritual practice of intentional, ordinary actions.

I also invite you to join with me in this ordinary exploration and share your stories. It would be great to have your stories as “guest posts”:

  • What ordinary actions have become spiritual practices for you?
  • What have you learned?
  • How do these simple actions draw you closer to God? To others? To God’s creation?

Email your stories to me
(800 words or less and, if possible, include a photo) Or leave your shorter comments below.