I have been anxious and on edge these past several weeks without understanding why. It had gotten so bad that my family was suffering because of it. Then, this past Sunday, I found myself becoming suddenly and inexplicably emotional, to the point of wiping away tears, during this portion of the Gospel reading:
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)
After the reading, I racked my brains in order to understand why this passage, which I have heard and read ever since I can remember, should have had such a powerful effect on me on this particular Sunday. I realized that I had recently begun a new per diem hospice chaplain job, and had just been contacted about interviewing for another. I still have not lost the weight I have put on since my spinal surgery, and have been frustrated with the painfully slow pace with which occupational and physical therapy yield tangible results, if they yield any. I'd been struggling to re-learn how to play the harmonium, re-establish my physical and spiritual exercise regimens, reclaim the weed-choked flowerbed and half a dozen other things.
In a flash, I knew what had been making me so anxious: I have been trying to build a tree for myself, when what I needed to do was to plant a seed and trust God that it would grow. I could cultivate it to the best of my ability one day at a time, rather than trying to force it all into existence at once. Because the trees we build for ourselves may stand up, more or less, but they don't grow, they don't make good signs of the Kingdom, and they certainly aren't hospitable to those who perch around our lives.