LIKE A TREE BY THE WATERSIDE
In the film 'The Color Purple' two young women are walking through a field of purple flowers and one says to the other that it must make God mad when we pass the colour purple by with taking notice of it.
Jesus and the mystics call us to be attentive to the reality of nature around us - to admire it, its Creator and to learn lessons for life by observing it. Think of the flowers of the field...the birds of the air...the seed planted in the earth...the tiny mustard seed that produces a shrub that gives shelter.
In the mystery of creation we are called to discover the wisdom of the Gospel in which we discover the greatness of the little, strength for the weak, light out of darkness, life out of death, relevance for the irrelevant. The hope of the tree that is cut. Wood has hope - when it's cut it grows green again!
Galapo, Tanzania, where I worked for a few years, is situated on the side of a mountain overlooking a vast plain below. It is a beautiful and fertile land but in the dry season it turns to arid red dust. During one such season I myself felt very dry and barren. My soul seemed to be dying of thirst and I did not know what to do or where to turn. I felt myself to be irrelevant on the peripheral edges of my community.
Then one day Shirley came to visit me. She was a Medical Missionary of Mary, we were soul friends, and we went walking as soul friends do. Going over a hill and down into a valley close to our house we were surprised by a strong, free-flowing river that I’d never seen before. On its banks there were trees that were fresh, thriving and totally unaffected by the drought on the other side of the hill. The words of Jeremiah 17 came to mind, A blessing on the one who trusts in the Lord…like a tree by the waterside that thrust it roots into the stream: when the drought comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green.
When we experience spiritual dryness, when we feel that we have run out of steam and our strength seems to fail us, then there is a river flowing closer to us than we might imagine. We have the source of life in the Holy Spirit. There is no need for alarm while we are in touch with that source.
Something else that caught my attention by the river there was how beautiful the single leaf is in the light of the sun - its radiance, the way it transmits light, how that light reveals every little detail of the leaf, how the leaf seems to hold within itself the very form of the tree. What a wonderful thing it is to be able to see and admire this beauty.
And what of the leaves high up on the trees, those out of touch and out of our gaze? What is the purpose of their beauty if we cannot see them? And it came to me then that it is enough for them to be there for their Creator, to be seen by God, admired by Him.
And it dawned on me that in my own feeling of being irrelevant, on the edges, unseen - that it is enough for me to be seen by God, admired & loved by Him. When the light of God shines on me and through me then I am radiant, holding within the the form of God, the Divine imprint.
It is not I who make this happen; it is God who is the light that shines on me and because of Him I am radiant.
An essential aspect of the wisdom that we discover is that Creation is not God but is a signpost to God. We are wise when we take notice of it, pause with it, move in the direction in which it points us, keeping on until we reach our destiny. As Patrick Kavanagh says in 'Wild Geese At Dusk' - "Only they who fly home to God have flown at all."