It is the soil; Jamie Sims and the practice of spiritual disciplines

Published: October 31, 2012

Michael Strassfeld writes, in A Book of Life: Adopting Judaism as a Spiritual Practice, “In our lives, we are all ceaseless time-travelers as we move from moment to moment.” The Jewish people look to the festival cycle as a way of spiritually orienting themselves in the world. The festivals serve as inns for travelers on their journey – for some, places of rest and comfort, for others, places of reflection and awakening. We are all travelers; we are all on a journey. Fortunate are those who find their way to inns of awakening and not merely rest. 

Spiritual disciplines have become one of the ways in which I spiritually orient myself in the world, inns that offer me both comfort and awakening. They have changed the way I encounter the Divine and are a persistent call to reexamine myself and the way I interact with the world. Wake Div has helped me rejuvenate old practices and cultivate new ones.

Lectio Divina has revolutionized the way I interact with scripture. It is a time to let the scriptures speak in a way that the rigor of academic study does not allow. It necessitates and fosters a gentle, unpresumptuous posture towards the text. DivBeatitudes is a great place for Lectio Divina. Every Monday at 11am a group of wayfarers meet for a time of Centering Prayer. This type of prayer calls me to true stillness – not calm, quiet, thoughtful contemplation – actual, interior silence. Stillness is my invitation to the Divine Presence. It is an opportunity to simply be. Chris Copeland introduced me to the Awareness Examen. It is a simple set of questions that prompt attentive reflection on my day. It encourages sensitivity to God’s presence and mindfulness of my encounters. These are a few that I really love and mean a lot to me, I encourage everyone to find practices that are meaningful for them.

One of the most important things I have come to learn about spiritual disciplines is that their fruits are rarely yielded during the practices themselves. The primary benefits of spiritual practices occur in daily life, outside of the time we give to the disciplines. I recently heard Norman Wirzba say, “Love is making space for the other to thrive.” How do we make space for others to thrive? I spent most of Fall Break in my garden, dreaming, relaxing, and creating garden beds. They are the spaces I will grow vegetables when spring comes. If I want those plants to do well, if I want them to thrive, I have to create a space where they can do that. The more fertile the soil is, the more productive and fruitful the plants will be. One of the ways I love God is by making space for her to thrive. Spiritual practices bring fertility to our inner-self. They are tools we can use to prepare our being. It is there, in the rich, tended soil of our innermost-life, the fruits of the Spirit can lavishly grow.

There is a temptation to skip the hard work of tending to the fields and caring for the soil. There is a certain attraction to commercial fertilizer, pesticide, and genetically modified seed that can spring up against all odds in our depleted and exhausted souls. Have we not all prayed for miraculous transformation or supernatural growth? Hoping that we might wake up one day brimming with love, peace, and patience. Truly, God is a magnificent gardener. But, the gardener does not grow the plant. It is the soil. May we each take up the tough, challenging, and wonderful work of making a space for the Other to thrive. May we begin to nurture a fertile space within ourselves that might produce an abundant harvest of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – the defining characteristics of the Commonwealth of God. Take up your spade and break ground.

Jamie Sims
Second Year MDiv