A couple weeks ago I was working on an article for Bringing Home the Word. The Gospel passage was Jesus’ metaphor of the vine and the branches from John’s Gospel. I did some research on pruning grape vines and made some helpful connections to our spiritual lives. The images of pruning away old or unproductive branches, of staying close to the vine, of trusting the divine Vinegrower all resonated with the upcoming Easter season.
Then I took a day off to do some early spring yard work. As I worked with the wild grape vines and the honeysuckle shrubs that surround (and invade!) my yard, I was wishing I could rewrite my article. There was nothing orderly in the work that I was doing in the yard. For a time I was simply moving brush from one pile to another, with no end in sight. And it was a familiar feeling. Because it occurred to me that sometimes we’re productively cultivating fruit and other times we’re lucky if we can just manage to keep the chaos at bay.
I can understand why Jesus used images from nature and everyday life in his parables. I do some of my best thinking—and praying—when I’m doing something else, whether it’s yard work, knitting, cooking or just sitting on the porch. Working with my hands on a regular basis keeps me grounded in reality.
It can be easy to get caught up in only thinking about our spiritual lives, our sense of who God is, our beliefs and the words we use to express those beliefs. But our faith, in the end, is about how we live our everyday lives, how we relate to the people around us, how we care for God’s creation. It’s hard to argue with the forces of the natural world!