Monday, September 17, 2018

Mannequin v Human

When I was around 11 or 12 years old, my mother told me that I had more patience than anyone she had ever known – “as you have never used an ounce of what God gave you.”  Her comment was made as I was pouring out my frustration over not being able to play one of Rachmaninoff’s sonatas: after a year’s worth of lessons, for crying out loud!

In my adolescent mind, there had to be a trick I was missing. I even told my piano instructor she was holding out on me, as she was clearly not allowing me to learn faster.

When it came to pianists, in those days Van Cliburn was The Man. I remember listening to him on mom’s record player thinking, I want to play like that. Subsequently, I began seeking some kind of unique power that would decrease the gap of time between desire and accomplishment. And by “decrease,” I meant less than minimal effort.

Let’s get this show on the road!

What I was looking for was just the right prayer that would cast a magic spell over my hands and, insto-presto (that’s Latin for Right Now), I’m a child prodigy.

While I gradually embraced the reality that mastering a skill-set or a body of knowledge (if there even is such a thing) takes thousands of hours of study and work, when it came to spiritual and psychological transformation, I spent the next decade or so searching for a shorter route to depth of soul and character than the one I seemed stuck on.

It wasn’t so much that I wanted total transformation, “Sometime this week, Lord,” but more a case where I kept looking for spiritual and psychological tricks (quick fixes with biblical proof-texts) to speed up the process. What continued to bedevil me, however, was that when I found a quick fix for what ailed me, what had been created was unreal, inauthentic, plastic. “Melts in your hands, not in your mouth!”

While mannequins can be put together quite quickly, the personal growth and transformation of a human being is another matter, altogether.

Using some of Christ’s metaphors, a seed is planted, dies, and then gradually creates a new plant. We, with God’s supporting grace, prepare the soil (soul); we tend to the seeds with water and fertilizer; when the plant grows, there will be the necessary pruning, and so on. If we seek to speed up the process by ignoring the preparation of the soil, the seed lands on hard ground and dies, producing nothing. If we seek to use the trick of, say, over-fertilizing the seeds, the plant grows quickly but has no roots, so that when the sun beats down on it, it just as quickly dies.

Getting to the point where a tree actually begins to bear fruit doesn’t happen over night and any one who tells you differently is either deluded or a con.

When it comes to soul work, we need to think like gardeners, not makers of mannequins or magicians. Gardeners understand what to do and when (which season) to do it, while patiently trusting the process - did you hear that, mom?!? – and, even more importantly, trusting the Creator and Sustainer of the garden of our souls.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2018

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