Spring vacation will be over before I know it, and even though I’m not being very adventurous these days I am trying to savor every second of it. Yes, I have a billion things to do, including our taxes (ugh!), but I’ve learned some people are meant to follow one path that brings them happiness for the rest of their lives. Me? Well, I like to branch out. Why pick one passion when I have so many sparking my interest?
Playing music, gardening, writing, reading, crafting—all working together to add a different type of fertilizer to my life. And our Lord, of course, right in the center of it all, providing my spirit the warmth it requires to move me in the direction I’m supposed to go… like a sunflower following the blinding orb that travels the sky.
I must say, I don’t miss wanting to be in control of my destiny. Not one bit. I don’t miss reading the tarot or the monthly horoscope to see what’s coming next and how to prepare for it. I don’t miss the idea of having to carry out rituals or meditations to rid myself of negative energies so that I may align myself with the best possible outcome. These things might be real and might work for some people. They were real to me once, but not anymore. And I’d never felt so free in my life.
The counter-argument would be that the same thing can be said about the church. It’s true, I don’t need to be an active part of a church community to be a good Christian. Churches, however, provide opportunities for alms giving and spiritual growth. It makes it easier, but there are many organizations doing good deeds all over the world. You don’t need a church for that. Being a Christian is about loving our Creator above all things, striving to be more like Jesus, and following the commandments which, if you ask me, will help anyone, not just Christians, become better people. The world will have a lot less a-holes simply by adhering to the rules God gave Moses. But judging by the history of Christianity, we’ve seen how religion has been manipulated to gain power and oppress people. You can bring a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink. It isn’t that simple.
Sunday mass is an opportunity to sit at the table with Jesus, to share that last supper with him, and to receive him internally so that he may change us from the inside. When you stop seeing the chalice and the bread and begin seeing Jesus waiting at the altar with open arms, attending mass stops being a responsibility and becomes a weekly opportunity to share an intimate yet tangible moment with God. And those who don’t believe in the miracle of the Eucharist will not see it that way. And that’s okay.
We’re all where we need to be at this moment in time. God loves us all equally and understands our hearts and our intentions. Each one of us is the sum of our experiences, our hopes, and our fears. As long as we strive to be closer to our Creator the means of getting there should not be judged. We’ve all been given different paddles to cross these waters. We’re all inexperienced rowers, trying to figure it out. We’ll get there one way or another, but we need to encourage, not criticize each other. We need to build each other up.
I’m writing this blog post from my usual spot—my balcony garden, or as I like to call it, "my small potted jungle". I remember when we first moved here three years ago, I only had four outdoor plants, the iron trellis and a bench the previous tenant had left behind. I remember the struggle of keeping each plant alive. Our balcony faces West and the scorching heat of the afternoon sun would fry the leaves. I would water each pot every day and three hours later the soil was dry and cracked. The aloe was turning yellow, the dieffenbachia was giving up hope. That’s when I began bringing new smaller plants that could live in the shadows of the bigger plants that were suffering. It was an instinctual decision, but I stubbornly believed the bigger plants would eventually get used to the conditions here. To my surprise, the more plants I accommodated under the foliage of the taller plants, the better they all looked. The aloes turned green and began flowering and giving me pups, the dieffenbachia began growing taller and stronger. The golden pothos began wrapping itself across the iron trellis, and my Cuban oregano needed to be moved to a bigger pot. My sad little garden had grown into a small ecosystem that required water every other day, and it was all because they were sustaining each other.
Plants, like people, are capable of reaching their full potential by working in numbers. Our green friends don’t compete for attention or think themselves better than others. They silently applaud the glories of their gardenmates and each little individual victory is shared by all equally, building up the confidence and encouraging the growth of the lot.
So, keep yourself humble enough to become the student of plants. Take some time off your busy schedule to sit in a garden, and you’ll learn a thing or two about who God is, and who you are meant to be. And regardless of religion or believe, remember to keep the golden rule and not be an a-hole. Encouraging others doesn't take much and can mean the world to the person you're helping. And who knows, it might bring you unexpected blessings in the process.