Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
A wet snow had fallen a couple of days before, in advance of a bitter cold front scudding in on fierce, northwesterly winds. In the early morning, the wind still blustering, under a gray-metaled sky with a thin band of ruddiness eastering along the Blue Ridge, I slanted across fields and lanes at the state arboretum in Clarke County, through snow now compacted and hardened to crust and ice.
Painfully cold at first, I lost most sensation in my ears and extremities after a while, such that I adjusted and moved past the worst of the pain. Nevertheless, I sought some refuge from the bitter wind by taking a path among scrub brush. The tall bushes and saplings cut the wind noticeably, and I felt more comfortable. The cold became distinctly more bearable, and I began to be able to focus more closely on the surroundings.
Amid this severe beauty, I continued on the path into a wooded area, even more sheltered from the wind. Now it was just cold, around 20 degrees Fahrenheit, but tolerable. I stopped to observe, to watch and listen, in the calm at my level, while the heights of the trees, 40 to 50 feet above, swayed and rattled in the wind. I became aware of other movement and sound around me; and I wondrously realized there were at least several dozen cedar waxwings flitting around me in the woods, clustering on tree branches and fallen logs to eat of berries and drink of snow. The whir of glossy brown wings and bodies, basically unconcerned with me, took over my senses while I stood as still as I could.
The cedar waxwings and I were in a stand of hackberries. The common hackberry tree produces a green fruit in summer that ripens reddish brown to purple in autumn. After a hard frost, the small berries are particularly sweet. Hence the congregation of waxwings, for these elegant birds dine largely on fruit, especially in fall and winter. Fruit constitutes such a significant part of their diet that they are known as frugivorous birds. They favor hackberries, when available, greatly.
And there, in my stillness, I stood, I watched and listened, for an indeterminate time. A half hour? An hour? A quarter of an hour? In that moment, that space, I could not tell. I lost track of time, of cold. I knew only the flashing mass of cedar waxwings at feast among the trees and snow.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
When I was an infant I was truly but not fully human. Being truly human – in the sense of being human instead of some other creature – is only the beginning of being fully human. To live into the fullness of human personhood takes a lifetime.
We see this manifestly in children. Children grow in many ways: intellectual; emotional; moral; and spiritual. That children grow physically seems to make visible the reality of their non-physical growth. We expect change over the years for children. We expect growth in a myriad of ways, physical and non-physical.
When we reach adulthood, we may lose much of this expectation for our self. We no longer mature physically as children do. We age instead of mature. To the extent we grow physically, it is often in unhealthy ways. Sadly, along with this we may lose an expectation of continual maturation in intellectual, emotional, moral, and spiritual ways. Far too much, we only grow in these things unevenly, fitfully, or meagerly.
Yet Paul, in this rich passage in Ephesians, exhorts us to continual spiritual growth or maturation. His evocative phrase – “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” – and his unpacking of it deserve our long, prayerful reflection. In this space we can only note two principles of great importance.
The one principle is the necessity of spiritual growth. God truly gives us new life in Jesus. The fullness of this new life requires growth over time. It is unworthy of Jesus and our relationship with him to remain spiritual infants. We must grow in spiritual maturity over our entire life. The second principle is the measure of a worthy life. God calls us to live in a manner worthy of the new nature he has given us. How do we know what is worthy? A clamor of voices in our culture promote this or that standard of the full and good life. Paul points to one standard only: “…become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
God makes us new people. God energizes us through the Spirit to mature continually. God shows us in Jesus what it means to live truly and fully human, over this life and into the next. What a glorious goal! Nothing else is as worthy as what God desires and makes possible for us in Jesus! May we, with Paul, ever grow in living a life worthy of what God has made us.