…mine own vineyard have I not kept. Song of Solomon 1:6 (KJV)
“Come on, we’re going on a field trip,” the bishop announced as he pulled staff members out of their offices. The rains have been abundant this spring, and so avoiding the many puddles would be part of the adventure as we headed out the door.
We all walked cautiously down the hill and then traversed the pathway that edged the meadow where children hunt eggs every Easter. We passed by patches of iris that were standing in water, on through stands of Mountain Laurel that had already bloomed, and then made our descent to the springs—the source of the San Antonio River.
When the aquifer fills, the springs burst from the ground and mostly follow their ancient path. Some spill over onto the meadows creating a bog. The life-giving source of water has drawn people to this site for thousands of years and was the impetus for settlement of the indigenous Payaya Indians and later the Spanish missionaries.
The sense of history on our sacred grounds is compelling. Prior to the bequest of the lands to us in the last century, the owner had obviously respected and loved the place where so many had lived and thrived for centuries. He employed twelve gardeners to maintain the nineteen acres that stretched across the valley and on into the basin. Besides the native species of plants and trees, Gaucho planted hundreds of azaleas and created a small pond where a boat was moored for an afternoon’s enjoyment.
As we meandered through the soggy grounds, I noticed an overgrown stone walkway climbing the hillside. And then to our right where terraced cutting beds had lined the walkway, bushes and weeds blotted out all signs of flowers from another day. The acreage around the old home is lush with naturalistic landscaping, but the farther one roams from the house, invasive plants are obscuring what was once a paradise. Nothing is static. Everything has to be maintained.
My practical mother told me of a time she dressed and was headed out the door to do some “good works”. She said that as she was leaving, she noticed cobwebs on the ceiling of the porch and sensed God telling her she needed to first take care of her own home before she could credibly go out and share Jesus with someone else. Maintenance.
And so, I’ve been thinking… Seeing the overgrown beds and walks on our grounds was sad, but it was just a reminder that, while it might be more exciting to get out of the familiar and engage in stimulating ministries, our first obligation is Jerusalem: our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and our family and our community. Solomon’s “beloved” had been busy taking care of the family vineyards, but she hadn’t tended to her own needs (Song of Sol. 1:6). And Martha was so busy worrying while she worked that she had neglected “the most important thing” (Luke 10:41). On the other hand, Jesus regularly spent time with his Father, communing and being strengthened by him (Matt. 14:13, Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45, 46, Mark 14:32-34). Essentially, even our spiritual lives must be maintained.
And that happens through the spiritual disciplines – Bible reading, prayer, and meditation as starters. To paraphrase the violinist Jascha Heifetz, if I don’t spend intentional time with God one day, I notice it; if I miss two days, my friends notice it; if I miss three days, everyone notices it. We have to tend our own gardens, spending time with our Father, and then we can go out to work in the fields to which he’s called us.
Lord, thank you for speaking to us in our ordinary days through your creation. Give us ears to hear and feet to obey. In Jesus our Lord. AMEN.