Posted on January 29th, 2019
Walking down Lombard Street on the way to our third Encounter Saturday intensive, I wondered how this day would compare to the first two. We had explored the meandering river of our spiritual stories in year one, and plumbed the depths of the river of our inner selves in year two: so what would year three hold?
Gathering in St Edmunds, once again our tutors had constructed an amazing motif in the centre of the room, but this time the focus was not on the river but on the trees on its banks, the Revelation 22 trees planted by living water and offering healing to the nations. ..That was the metaphor we were to explore today.
And so we entered an extended meditation on our own trees of life. As the day unfolded, we sketched out our trees, and shared together fresh wisdom for our budding ministries of spiritual direction and new insights into our personal spiritualities. I would have liked to have drawn a mighty oak, .reaching to the sky, covered in acorns. Perhaps I would have done a few years back. What I actually drew was a weeping willow, which captured the season for me much more aptly. I’m no artist, but as I drew and reflected, I noticed how the soil had changed over time, enriched by tradition and contemplative practices. I laid to rest some of the things that had affected its quality and structure in the past, recognising how significant the process of dying can be to the formation of life-giving soil.
I saw that the trunk of my tree was far from perfect, covered in notches and scars, but that deep within it carried both a sense of surrender to the wind of the Spirit and a core strength. And while the crown of my willow bowed down towards the ground, even the slightest of branches offered a place for birds to rest.
At the end of the day we reflected on the beauty of this metaphor through liturgy and sharing. And, as they say, I started to see the wood for the trees! I am not standing alone in my journey and ministry, I’m surrounded by countless other trees of all shapes and sizes, some laden with summer fruit, some still in winter. And as I offer the hospitality of my branches in ministry to others, I will draw deeply on the tree’s wisdom to accompany them in their own story for a time.
Charles Hippsley is a third year student on our Encounter course - our initial training in Spiritual Direction. Interested? For more information, read here ...