Growing the Good Seed Despite Illness

Since my last posting I have been battling ill health and pain. I have not felt much like writing .   Feasting on the scriptures and offering prayers have carried me through.

In a weakened state I have pondered what use my body is. Did you know that even if you are suffering, the word of God can still take root? Imagine that. What the natural condition makes desolate, God makes fertile.

I was reading the book of Alma in the Book of Mormon.   Alma, a preacher, came across a few disenfranchised Zoramites. A group of poverty-stricken people denied access to the synagogues. Instead of feeling depressed about their status, Alma “beheld [them] with great joy; for their afflictions had truly humbled them, and that they were in preparation to hear the word. “Alma 32:6

Poverty had made these people open to hear the truth of God’s word, God’s gospel, because poverty compelled them to be humble. Sickness is a form of spiritual poverty that may compel some to become humble. Of course, Alma reminds us better would be to be humbled by the word rather than be compelled by external circumstances.   However, either way, humility opens a door.

Alma 32 is called the discourse on faith but really it is about the word of God – described as a fertile seed.  “Now if ye give place to that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that it is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, ye, it beginneth to be delicious to me’ . Alma 32:28

So, to take hold of the word, to plant it, and experience its growth is the beginning of understanding and enlightenment.   The verses continue to expound upon the signs of a good seed. It sprouts and brings forth fruit of its own likeness. Of course faith parallels the development of the seed. However, whereas the seed goes on to produce the tree of life and the fruit ‘which is sweet and above all that is sweet’ (vs. 42), faith if allowed to maturate fully becomes knowledge and not faith. It can overripen, if you will.

The good seed’s success is dependent upon soil condition and nourishment. “if ye nourish it with much care it will get root , and grow up, and bring forth fruit.” Vs. 37   Within a sick person’s body, one may wonder where is any good, healthy, nourishing soil?   It lies within the heart or the spirit. As long as the spirit seeks God as the body seeks water to quench thirst, there will be fertile soil where the word of God can take root. Watering and nourishing are only partially fulfilled by one’s Will. The word of God provides the physical materials. Our spirit merely needs to apply faith that is so light that even the frail can carry.

Even while in pain, one can exercise ‘diligence and …faith and …patience with the word.” Vs. 42   And harvest and feast upon ‘this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst.’ Vs 42   All of which can foreshadow death and heavenly rewards of partaking of the Tree of Life.

Within the limitations of chronic illness, we always have access to the word and can till the seed and watch it blossom within our spirits. Perhaps on occasion savoring the sweetness of the ripened fruit.

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Reboot

It has been a few months since my last post. Health issues have impeded posting. Spiritual life has been influx but in a way deepening. Need to balance contemplative spiritual devotion with writing and publishing for a public audience. The latter cannot deflect the primary focus of my limited energy. However, there is some value in sharing my journey for others who are seeking greater devotion and peace.

SEEKING GOD

Why would I spend my time seeking God? As some sort of intellectual exercise? To test whether God exists? To escape my personal problems? To avoid ‘reality’? None of these. Simply love.

I have a strong desire to draw closer to my Creator. God, my creator and Eternal Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ my redeemer and advocate. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3 To know is not merely a matter of belief, of faith, though it may be at the beginning of the journey. Rather I am suggesting experience no matter how fleeting with The Divine. Knowing in a way that cannot be expressed through reason nor even expressed in words. William of St Thierry expressed it well, “Reason cannot see God, except that he is not…”. Pennington, A School of Love.   Pretty deep stuff but, really, open to all who seek.

As with any journey I start with the guidebook: the road map and rule book if you will. Those would be the Holy Scriptures: The Old and New Testaments, and additionally for Latter-Day Saints The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. Our church Sunday School curriculum this year focuses on the New Testament so that will be much of the basis of my personal scripture study.

Next I will seek out the wisdom and writings of modern-day apostles and prophets to frame my journey within the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  In addition, I will consult former and current contemplatives from the Cistercian tradition and consider incorporating certain practices into my life as a lay person. I feel that my physical limitations preclude activity typical to Latter-Day Saints ie children and family life is the focus. My life situation, however, suits the life of prayer akin to contemplatives.

In the coming weeks and months I will be simplifying my worldly activities, social media involvement, downsize material possessions, and create a home environment of love, beauty and simplicity.   At the same time I will increase consistency and frequency of prayer and scripture time. Sounds idealized and impractical. Not suggesting to pull up a dumpster and toss the entire contents of my home into it (though attic stuff could probably qualify), and live on bread and water for the rest of my life. Merely saying that as I mature I feel I can live with less stuff and fewer worldly commitments. Moreover, physical impairment limit activities I can do with any regularity.  So why not turn limitation into a spiritual journey without limitations? We are all invited to “…lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better” Doctrine and Covenants 25:10

 

Without God, life would end at the grave and our mortal experiences would have no purpose. Growth and progress would be temporary, accomplishment without value, challenges without meaning. There would be no ultimate right and wrong and no moral responsibility to care for one another as fellow children of God. Indeed, without God, there would be no mortal or eternal life.

Robert G Hales, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “Seeking to Know God, Our Heavenly Father, and his Son, Jesus Christ” Ensign, October 2009.