An Inch at a Time

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 — Week of 2 Lent

Perpetua and her Companions, Martyrs at Carthage, 202

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 953)

Psalms 72 (morning) 119:73-96 (evening)

Genesis 42:18-28

1 Corinthians 5:9 – 6:8

Mark 4:1-20

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

The parable of the sower and the seed seems to me like a description of my own interior landscape.

God is always pouring loving grace into me, sowing seeds of divine presence and energy.

But I have hard places — old paths of habits, the hardened ground of repeated behavior and thought, resisting being broken up enough to allow the new seed to enter.

And I have thin and rocky soil — times when I receive the grace of insight or call with initial enthusiasm, but I don’t have the patient discipline to allow it to take root and become established. When stress and pressure mounts, I revert to my old self-centered ways.

And some of God’s good desire for me I choke with “the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things.”

But that’s not all. I do have some good soil. I have heard and nurtured the word and grace of God, and it has born fruit. Sometimes I catch on, and wonderfully good things happen. I can and do participate in God’s work. When that happens, it is the source of my greatest gratitude.

Sister Joan Chittister has said, “We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again.”

That metaphor works for our personal landscape also. Each day when we pray, we invite the Spirit to plow a little deeper, to break up another inch of psychic soil. Every act of contrition and confession is our willingness to put the shovel into our hardened ground and open it to the spiritual water and light that brings life. Every act of forgiveness is our willingness to pick up a rock and cast it away so that it no longer burdens the seed of God’s living. Every intercession and every act of kindness is a reclaiming of an adjacent inch of the planet, inviting the healing energies of the sun/Son.

The amazing thing is how much God can do with so little. It only takes an inch of soil here and and inch of soil there for God to create “thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” God is so encouraging. Every once in a while I visit with someone who knows what God has done with a particularly hard or thorny place in their life. The gratitude and amazement is palpable.

Spring is beginning eternally. Spiritual growth, like organic growth, has its times and its seasons. Every day is a day when we can reclaim an inch of the planet, including an inch of our own psychological and spiritual territory. All it takes is a little turning. God gives the seed. The living waters and the eternal light bless the whole. Slowly, mysteriously, from the dark rooted depths emerges new life. With just a bit of protection it will grow and produce great fruit to feed a hungry world and to scatter seeds of future possibility. An inch at a time.

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