Friday, 13 August 2010

Evening Prayer - James 1:2-4

Trials and Temptations
Consider it pure joy, whenever life gets difficult, because you know that the trying of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance is always work in progress towards a time when you may be mature and complete, so that you may flourish.

 It is, what Winnie the Pooh would call, a blustery day. A wide sky with bright clouds racing to the horizon; some darker cousins challenging, armwrestling the sun; 'if I win it will rain'. And they try; but they don't.

It seems a good day for a walk in the churchyard, sheltered by the high sandstone wall and yew hedge; but it isn't. The cloud racing zephyrs are also chasing each other through the mature oaks, sycamores and chestnuts; roaring like thunder and sending down a torrent of leaves, twigs and immature acorns and nuts. The trees seem to shudder to their very roots, the weight of all the summer growth making them heavy like sheep waiting for the shearer. The paths full of unripened fruits, twigs and leaves are signs that the trees are making ready, willing to give up some of their summer efforts to the testing; trying their resolve against the capricious nature of the wind. Better to let go now than to fight the same battle under a flurry of snow or a downpouring of rain. Better to know where your strength lies.

At one time, when young trees were planted they were supported by wooden stakes and leather ties until such time that they were considered strong enough to stand alone. Strangely this always took longer than a wild sapling making its own way in the same ground. And unless someone remembered to come along and cut the ties the tree would die; strangled by what was supposed to protect it. The older trees exhibit the twists and turns in their trunks where they have played give and take with the wind and so found a place to grow and mature. Now the groundsmen plant them and leave them to God. What a good idea.

Blustery days, more than any,  make my think of the Holy Spirit; the dancing trees, the washing on whirling lines; the birds forced into aerial acrobatics as even they are caught unawares. On a late summer day it seems that She is having a good natured trial of strength with Creation. But good natured or not - it's a trial that teaches a lesson. We grow, we gather more than we need, more than matters. The trials come in wild currents bringing their challenge and it is up to us to decide our priorities; the frivolous additions to our lives or the protection of the heartwood; the deep roots of faith or the temporary dressing of summer.


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