BREAKING OPEN THE ORDINARY
By Sandy Prather
To weather life’s storms, give your roots rain . . .
Autumn: it’s the time of year when good gardeners are busy in
their gardens. Pruning, mulching, cleaning — there’s a whole
series of tasks to prepare the plants and trees for winter. Included
in these chores is that of deep watering. My neighbour and I were discussing
the best way to do this. He uses a special soaker hose that allows the
water to sink deeply into the soil. The deep watering in turn promotes
deep root growth. Instead of the roots staying near the surface of the
soil, grounding the tree only shallowly and making it vulnerable to drought
and wind, the roots go deep into the earth. The tree is able to tap into
a deeper reservoir of nutrients, enabling it to withstand drought. The
deep roots also anchor the tree against wind and storms.
I was thinking of this the other day while walking with
a friend. She is going through a difficult time and is struggling to
maintain equilibrium. She said she felt like one of the “storm-tossed” ones
that Isaiah speaks of (Isaiah 54:11), afflicted and buffeted by the winds
and vagaries of life. As a faith-filled person, she is drawing deeply
on God to find the courage to carry on.
In this, we are like the trees. We need to be grounded deeply in God
if we are to withstand the storms of life. A shallow and superficial
faith will not sustain us when the hurricanes of serious illness, broken
relationships and shattered dreams smash into our lives. We will topple
over if our roots do not go deep enough.
How do we do this, develop the deep-rooted faith we need
to sustain ourselves? There is a lovely prayer/poem that says one needs
to “Give your
roots rain” (Sacred Spaces, Jesuit Communication Centre, Ireland,
2009). Part of spiritual wisdom is to know what it is that feeds your
spirit. What refreshes and nurtures you? Each of us will have individual
answers, but there are several our tradition suggests.
One way to give our roots rain is to take time to sit and
think. We need to give ourselves permission to do nothing. A popular
poster from a few years ago shows a close-up photograph of a snoozing
puppy, its bulldog face all crinkled up, one eye half open, the other
shut. The caption is, “Sometimes I sits and thinks; sometimes I
We need both. We need to just sit and we need to take time
to think. As a culture, we are oriented to being busy. To sit and do
nothing is foreign to us. We are “doers,” always active.
The moment we do get some time, we pick up our mobile devices and check
our messages, update our status or switch on the TV. We are constantly
on the move, with an eye on the next thing we need to do, too busy even
to know what we are thinking. We are hardly present to our own life.
We need to take time to think. We need to sit, empty-handed,
in silence for a length of time. We become aware of our breathing, of
happening in our bodies, of the sound of the silence around. We enter
an inner place, a reflective place where we come face-to-face with ourselves
and with God. Mystic Meister Eckhart, after all, reminds us that nothing
is so like God as silence. We give our roots rain when we listen to the
silence, letting it sink deep into us. Stilling the frantic pace of our
bodies, entering into deep relaxation, is a gift many of us need.
We give our roots rain when we take the time to visit with
a friend or friends for no other reason than to be with them. We are
so results-oriented in our society that time for play, for simply enjoying
company, seems like a waste of time. Yet in the shared laughter or tears,
the telling of our stories, in the profound listening that takes place
between friends, we experience the richness of life. We give our roots
rain when we re/discover our deep connectedness and the truth that we
are not alone in this world.
We give our roots rain when we explore our creative side.
We might be poet, baker, weaver, photographer or gardener. We might dance,
sew, build or craft. The idea is to let the creative spirit within each
one of us be free. Imaginations engaged, inspired from within, we tap
very own nature, entering the timelessness of creation.
Finally, we give our roots ran when we sit with Scripture. The Word of
God is a privileged place where God comes to be with us. As we sit with
the Word, it soaks into us. We see things differently. We are challenged
to a new way of acting. We are given strength and comfort. Scripture
is meant to sink deeply into our hearts and spirits, transforming us
and feeding us.
“Rain down your love on your people,” implores one of our eucharistic hymns. Like hungry trees, we seek the nourishment that will not only keep us alive but will allow us to thrive and bear fruit. In our often storm-tossed and even afflicted lives, we need to pay attention to how we do that. It is a gift to God, ourselves, and those around us when we take time to do the things that give our roots rain.
Prather, BEd, MTh, is a teacher and facilitator in the areas of faith and spirituality. She was executive director at Star of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert, Alta., for 21 years and resides in Sherwood Park with her husband, Bob. They are blessed with four children and 10 grandchildren.