If They are Fruits of the Spirit the Stop Looking for Veggies

In a lectio divina group Estee and I are a part of, the eight  participants reflected on a section of John 15. In this "divine reading" an insight came into focus about Jesus talking about bearing fruit. Beginning with the thought that Jesus does not say we are to bear vegetables but fruit. Which on the surface seems silly, then the conversation opened up the metaphor.

I am not a farmer and know very little about growing produce. What I know is that to grow, say corn, one would plow the soil, sow seeds,feed and water the seeds and when the harvest comes, you cut the corn down and then you begin the process over again the next year.

What is great about growing vegetables is that there is an almost immediate return on the work. You plant a seed then later that year you get corn or carrots or beans or squash. This is why kids are always introduced to gardening with growing vegetables - you do not have to wait too long for veggies.

This is not the case with most fruits. Peaches, apples, olives, cherries all take a number of years before food is produced. At the end of the process, being a farmer of fruit looks like being a farmer of vegetables. However, in the beginning fruit farmers do not get to 'eat' from their labors in a few weeks. They must wait years. However, fruit farmers also do not have to take time each year to till and plant - the vegetable farmer has to.

It is a simple thought but one that has larger ramifications for spiritual formation - are we like vegetable or fruit farmers?

Vegetable farmer spirituality might look like we are doing the same work work year after year. Vegetable farmer spirituality might look like we are always busy getting ready for the next season that we cannot abide in the presence of God. Vegetable farmer spirituality might look like we are being fed, but not patient enough to discover the sweetness of fruit. Vegetable farmer spirituality has some risk but only short term - because there is always a new season to try again. Vegetable farming spirituality looks like one who does not feel a need to trust very deeply, because in just a few weeks you just start again.

Fruit farmer spirituality might look like we are engaged in the hard work at the start then we must trust that fruit will come - never knowing if all the years of waiting will lead to any fruit. Fruit farmer spirituality might look like we are barren for a long time. Fruit farmer spirituality might look like we are not doing much as we wait but we are busy developing trust. Fruit farmer spirituality might look like silly because you may not eat for a while. Fruit farmer spirituality might look like one who, after a long time, cannot help but be deeply rooted and continue to grow fruit even if the farmer dies.

On a side note, fear seems to be a component of developing vegetable farmer spirituality. Friends, I can tell you there at this moment in the church and world, there is an abundance of vegetable farming going on.

Originally posted on May 14, 2012

Quick SAT analogy - Movement : Institution as Spirituality : ______

I heard Brian McLaren once say that movements are organizations which call institutions to new social gains and institutions are organizations which conserve the gains made by past movements. 

I have heard that people are now more spiritual than religious. That is people are seeking out new ways to experience the transcendent and less interested in traditional experiences of the transcendent. 

Could it be that spirituality is to religion as movements are to institutions? 

Could it be that we are a culture that is more interested in seeking out new gains rather than preserving the gains made by our past movements? 

Why do you think we as a people are more interested in movements/spirituality than institutions/religions? 

In the next post, I will submit one reason that I think we are drawn to the movements/spirituality than institutions/religions. But until then, what say you?

Giving up on the journey part 2

Last post touched on a desire of mine to move away from the metaphor of the spiritual life as a journey. To tear things down without offering alternatives to fill the space is not something that is ever productive and many times problematic. So an alternate metaphor to faith as going on a journey to faith as ice sculpting.

Ask a sculptor how they make a figure out of ice and they will tell you that they listen to the ice in order to understand how to work with it. The artist respects the shape and history of the ice in order to help bring out the potential it has within it. As the sculptor works with the ice, shapes take form.

The sculptor makes the ice. The ice is not the primary actor but it also not without input into the process.

There may be imperfections in the ice that result in an unintended fracture, but the sculptor works with it in order to find another way to shape the ice.

The ice is beautiful.

The ice is a paradox. It is hard yet also liquid. It is solid and temporary. It will melt in a blink of an eye. The sculptor lives on after ice melts.

While ice can be shaped it requires a bit of work on the part of the sculptor. And once the ice takes its form it resists changing. But it is not impossible.

And once melted, the sculptor can collect the water and use it again to create a new block with a new shape.

Although not perfect, the metaphor of faith as ice sculpting allows us to explore new ways to talk about faith and what it means to individuals and communities. We can pick it apart, as I have with the metaphor of journey, and find where it breaks down. But the beauty of this metaphor is that it is uncommon enough for everyone to know it is a metaphor and we can treat it as such.

Spiritual Journey? Not for me.

Perhaps the most common metaphor to discuss the idea of faith or life is the metaphor of a journey.

In the church we use this metaphor a lot. We discuss how your "walk with Christ is going" or express we are on the "spiritual journey" or the "journey of faith". Even sermons are critiqued on if the preacher "got somewhere" in their sermon. You may have "arrived on a mountain top" in your life as you were "marching to Zion" or "walked in the valley of the shadow of death."

It is a rich metaphor which makes it difficult for me to abandon. But it seems like the church must put this metaphor down and learn to embrace other metaphors.


Because the underlying assumption in the journey metaphor is that there is a destination. We walk by faith toward some goal or until we arrive at a destination. When we use the journey metaphor there is an unspoken assumption that we would not be on the journey without the destination. No one likes the idea of "meandering" or "wondering" - even thought these are words that fit the journey metaphor they are rarely invoked in a positive light.

We want to reach for the "highest goal" that we "might receive the prize." Because "when we all get to heaven what a day of rejoicing that will be".

The journey metaphor gives us a built in excuse to avoid religion all together if our lives are not moving toward the goal we feel we should be meeting. If our lives are not becoming better or if I "don't get anything out of it" then we are free, under the faith as a journey metaphor, to abandon religion and/or faith. Journey metaphor means that when we are not reaching the goal in a timely manner we have a crisis of faith and then we turn to the metaphor for some help in understanding only to find that everyone else seems to be suggesting that you are in fact being carried by Christ on your walk.

Finally, the metaphor of a journey is the fact that the primary actor in the metaphor is the individual. Not God or even the community, but the individual. We can be on a spiritual journey and not have room for God, which is fine for other religions but not Christianity.

To some the walk metaphor is comforting and I am glad that it is. However, for many people (this author included) this metaphor has too many problems to be held on to for much longer.

Do you have any suggestions?