Shirin McArthur

prayerful pondering

Spiritual Ripening

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I don’t have a vegetable garden this year. There are a handful of reasons for this, including the move to our new home in December, the unfinished state of our backyard landscaping projects (specifically a drip irrigation system in need of significant overhaul or replacement), and a wealth of freelance work which has kept me so busy that I honestly haven’t missed the garden!

While I’m not nurturing my own plot of ground at this time, I have been paying attention to what’s happening around me. Our neighborhood is adjacent to grain and cotton fields, and I’ve been watching as farmers harvested a crop shortly after our arrival, cleared and tilled the land, and planted new crops that are making the fields appear greener every day. DSC_8351Those new plants are slowly, steadily ripening into fullness. At the same time, in the desert all around us, various cacti have also blossomed and their fruits are now slowly, steadily ripening in the summer heat.

In another type of ripening, this past week I finished another stage in the editing of a forthcoming book. The book quotes Jim Finley, who was talking once with Thomas Merton, his spiritual director, about the frustration he felt around his seemingly failed efforts to attain spiritual maturity. Merton’s response was, “How does an apple ripen? It just sits in the sun.” (This conversation is shared in the “Ripening” edition of Oneing if you want to read it for yourself.)

As I reflected on this idea of spiritual ripening, I thought about something posted this week in an online community to which I belong. Christianne Squires of Still Forming is leading us through a “Foundations” series “to explore, discern, and honor God’s personal invitations in your life.” She was talking about a paradigm shift, away from having (or, I’d add, seeking or craving or obsessing over) knowledge about God and the spiritual life and toward active participation in the natural shaping that comes with ongoing growth.

In essence, the book and the online community formed this week’s fertilizer, nurturing my own spiritual ripening process and helping me to think more deeply about whether and how I am open to God’s invitations for growth and maturity. Such fertilizer is present, all around us, but I think we don’t often take the time to absorb it into our souls, or sit in the metaphorical (and perhaps literal) sun in order to slowly integrate that fertilizer into our spiritual systems.

What would it look like for you to make regular time to ripen—each week, each month? What fertilizes your spiritual life and how do you draw that fertilizer into your system? How and when are you called to simply sit in the sun?

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