From the William Morris Gallery

The Reaper and Sower, From the William Morris Gallery

There’s an E.E. Cummings poem I came across the other day called I Am A Little Church. There’s surely a lot one can get out of it, but I was stopped just a few lines down where it says, “my life is the life of the reaper and the sower.” What I noticed is that I do plenty of sowing but not enough reaping.

My life is busy enough as it is. I’m a full time graduate student, I have an internship twice a week, a wife to be attentive to, a blog and podcast to maintain, and I’m even now working on a book. I absolutely love sowing seeds and helping others find God, but I realise I do not do enough reaping. I don’t make the time to sit and pray often enough, or read another’s blog, or do spiritual (not academic) reading. I need to reap more.

For others, they may do plenty of reaping but not enough sowing. They may need to be more attentive to their loved ones or friends, or do more writing. Their reaping may include lots of reading and absorbing new theologies and new ways of prayer, but they may not share it with others. As with being a contemplative in action, our contemplative life (reflecting, praying, etc.) must be shaped by our active life (doing, giving, etc.), and vice versa.

I think E.E. Cummings’ line tells us that we need to strike a balance, that our life involves a more level scale, of reaping and sowing, giving and receiving. It is far from selfish to receive. We cannot give genuinely if we ourselves are not able to receive with open hands. Reaping is what shapes us and fosters our inner lives. It’s what prevents us from being stagnant in our faith. And, it’s what gives us new seeds to sow in others’ lives. A spiritual director who does not pray him or herself cannot be a good spiritual director. If I, as a blogger, never reap what I sow, then all I say and offer on this blog is just talk.

That said, I am going to take a month’s break from my Monday posts to do a bit of my own reaping. Not to worry, though! The other contributors will continue posting to the blog throughout November. And beginning 30 November we will bring back the much appreciated Discerning Advent series for the third year in a row. If you’re receiving this by email then you’re all set to receive all four weeks posts. If you’re reading this on you can subscribe by entering your email address on the righthand sidebar on the homepage.

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Music by Kevin MacLeod