Had a “that’ll preach” moment the other day –
in the wake of Andy “the tree guy”
(as we’ve come to name him… at least between ourselves)
working around our house.
Most immediately, there was the message – the reminder – of how God has variously gifted folks in life to serve different purposes. Seeing Andy up in some of our four to five story trees had me thankful that there are those who have been called and gifted to monkey up trees–and with a chain saw, at that! (Andy may very well feel the same way about those who monkey around in the pulpit.)
And then, there was and is a parable of how things grow.
Jesus himself would speak of the need for cutting off the
useless and being about pruning’s that make for greater fruitfulness.
Obvious to me now, as well, was and is the way that cleaning things “up there” heightens the potential for greater and fuller light to reach (and nourish) grass and plants below.
Purgation and illumination: these are words that the ancients of our faith would assign to this dual process of thinning-pruning and increasing light in the journey of spiritual formation. Employing the image of a dilapidated house, Brian McLaren gives definition to each of these processes as follows:
If the soul is a house that has fallen into disrepair or perhaps a house that was abandoned and boarded up before it was completed, you must begin by purging the house of the trash, dirt, and vermin that have accumulated within it. So the purgative way first instructs you to take the boards off the windows and tear down the heavy old curtains that hide or obscure the mess inside. Then it tells you that you must take some soap and water and scrub the windows of their grime. As you begin the reclamation, everything depends on letting light come in, because without light you won’t be able to see what’s dirty and what needs to be cleaned and repaired… The via illuminativa, or the way of fotosis, means that now, having removed the boards and curtains from the long-closed windows of our souls, we learn to let light in [so that we can more and more see all other things—God, self, and others—as they really and fully are].
(Brian McLaren, Finding Our Way Again, p. 151f., 159-160)
Elsewhere, McLaren will point out how some might be inclined to reduce these movements to phases of life when, in fact, they are recurring dynamics throughout our spiritual lives. On the way to ultimate Union with God, we might say, there will ever be seasons of purgation and fuller illumination.
This latter note is a way of saying or reminding us that, like God, Andy the tree man will return again – monkeying around in the trees with his chainsaw, stimulating fuller life above… and below.