Several years ago, I began praying about a “life verse—” a sort of scriptural purpose statement to help align my yearnings with God’s good purpose. One morning, a few short verses jumped off the pages of my Bible right into the depths of my soul. I knew this is the type of woman I wished to be.
Below is the slightly-altered text of my life verses, Psalm 1:1-3, from the NIV.
Blessed is the woman
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but her delight is in the law of the Lord,
and she meditates on God’s law day and night.
3 She is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever she does prospers.
While participating in a contemplative prayer retreat at Cova San Ignacio in Manresa, Spain last spring, Fr. Javier Meloni, retreat facilitator, encouraged us to take morning prayer walks in the Center’s garden. Generally, I measure the value of walks by the number of steps my Fitbit monitors, and Javier’s assignment felt as foreign as the nation to which I’d travelled.
When walking in nature, he suggested, think of each step as a kiss to the earth from which life is received. Trees, vegetables and fruit grown in the soil are all gifts from the earth God has given us.
Walk slowly. Study the intricacies of a leaf. Touch the trunks of the trees, feeling unique textures of bark. Observe the differences in shrubs, trees, flowers, even blades of grass.
Listen to sounds of creation—birds singing, insects chirping, the wind whistling.
I like trees, and two different ones drew my attention during my first garden walk. One stood alone at the perimeter. An old tree with coarse, deeply wrinkled bark, reminding me of a venerable, aged seaman keeping watch.
The second tree was like no other in this garden. While most tree branches were still barren on the early-spring day when I walked, this tree was in full bloom. I noticed signs that revealed pruning, which had occurred in the past. The marks had healed, leaving only smooth scars as evidence of the tree’s previous pruning.
The tree reminded me of my “life verses,” and I decided to make this tree “mine” while in Manresa.
My first nature-walk in the garden at Cova San Ignacio had been a deeply satisfying, sweetly spiritual experience. I was anxious to repeat the exercise.
The next morning as I entered the garden, this image, which I captured with my cell phone camera, shows how “my” Manresa-tree greeted me!
As I gazed on the light radiating through its branches, I realized not only do trees need earth’s soil to exist. They need sunlight to create energy essential for photosynthesis that produces oxygen in the life-giving air I breathe.
What is the spiritual truth for me to learn in this garden-walk experience?
I wondered, then concluded. Even as “my” Manresa-tree needs both soil and sun to grow, I need to not only meditate day and night on the truth of scripture to yield fruit. I need the very power of the Spirit of Jesus, the one who declared, “I am the light of the world…” to reflect lifegiving light through the branches of my being.
What wisdom can be found in a garden!
Blessings as you ‘listen’ with your heart to lessons each of us can learn from nature…
- Words Jesus spoke, found in John 8:12 ↑