I sometimes find the lushness of a Chicago summer overwhelming. So many blooms in every shape, size, and color. Grasses and foliage out of control, whether in cultivated, city garden spots or along the sides of interstate highways. When the weather is warm and the rains continue to refresh the world, the wild life of plant matter is unstoppable. What has been germinating and forming under the soil crust must break the surface. Not only that—once out in the open, the leaves and stems and tendrils reach everywhere and connect with everything.
Life grows outward. It also grows thick and tangled. Every act that came before has produced its fruit, and all we can do is enjoy the fruit and trim back the excess when and if that seems like a good thing to do.
In terms of self-reflection, the plant life of summer reminds me that what is inside my life will grow outward from it. This is bad news, and it is good news. The bad news is that the worry and resentment I may have planted months ago will germinate and sprout. The ugly fruit will form, and its vines will just keep going. I will find it hard to keep up with the wild stuff that has developed from the seeds of my folly and fear.
The good news is that there’s more to my inside life than the bad seeds. Also, I’m not the only gardener in this scenario. Out of their love for me, other people stubbornly toss out huge handfuls of encouragement, praise, truth, wisdom, and delight. In fact, a lot of good seed lands here, and not just once or twice. Love does not give up but returns to the bare spots with more seed and possibly some fertilizer.
Once the good plants find the air and sun, they begin another growth spurt outward and everywhere. And this is where I sometimes become confused. When divine virtues make my heart beat faster and give me crazy ideas about how I can love the world, I might, out of sheer surprise, try to hold back. Do I really want this wild, beautiful, tangled love to overtake my life? To reorganize my space and priorities?
Can I endure lush love? Overgrown, carefree goodness? Far-reaching hope? Do I feel that I do not deserve such beauties? Am I compelled to try to control them?
Evaluate what is blooming and bearing fruit in this season—in my viewpoint, general attitude, abilities, and desires.
Choose to allow the good growth to go where it needs to go.
Choose to enjoy the beauty and say thank-you.
Contributor: Vinita Hampton Wright
PODCAST The Distillery, Season 1
Vinita Hampton Wright has been a book editor in the religion market for 26 years, serving as editor for Loyola Press for 19 years. She's an author of fiction (Dwelling Places, HarperOne) and nonfiction (The Soul Tells a Story, IVP; The Art of Spiritual Writing, Loyola Press). Wright presents workshops and retreats on writing, creativity, prayer, and Ignatian spirituality. She lives in Chicago with her husband.