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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Incompetent Gardener

I've long known that my role in catechesis is to plant seeds and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.  After all, my own conversion was long and varied (and continues as does my vocational discernment!). The reality is, though, that where the seeds go, I don't know.

I don't know if I'm planting the right seeds at the right times, providing the proper nourishment that belongs to my role, and I don't even know what SEASON it is for planting. All I can do is pass on what's in my hands when someone asks for it.

There are many people I know who are involved in religious education and who frequently quote someone (the name of the personage escapes me) in saying (or some variation):

 "God is the Manager. I'm in Sales."

Certainly that's true, for the biggest role of someone involved in passing on the Catholic Faith  is SELLING the Gospel, the theology, and the whole package, to all souls. Sure, it's delivered in bits and pieces and it's assembled with the assistance of the salesperson, but the analogy is correct:  evangelization is greatly a sales position.

For me, though, the "Sales" analogy doesn't work. 

People in Sales can "sell" their product. They can show them something amazing and make them BELIEVE it, and in their delivery of this wonderful thing, they prove themselves as wonderful and gifted motivational evangelists.

I've come to realize, though, that I'm not a sales person. I can't even motivate myself to get out of bed in the morning!  (That's why I have dogs!)

I am an Incompetent Gardener.

I have a bunch of seeds, I'm scattering them where and when it seems appropriate, and I'm hoping for the best.  Unfortunately I will never see the results, because these seeds are not annuals, they are not perennials, but rather they gestate for YEARS before they finally begin to bloom, and then it's someone else's job to encourage them to grow. Unless, of course,  I happen to trip on the tender bloom in my typical klutziness, and that usually means I need to pass the bruised reed in question on to someone else (like Jesus through the Sacred Ministry of the Priesthood) to be restored to full potential. If the damaged bloom is amenable, that is.

Besides, if I trip on the bloom it's just because a more competent gardener has managed to plant the seed in the right place in the right soil, and, well, the Holy Spirit has done His work.

That's what it comes down to, really.

Our roles don't matter. We are ALL, through Baptism, required to pass on the Faith throughout the world. We all contain the seeds that need to be spread, and all are called to do so in different ways.  Some are white-collar Sales people, others of us are lowly blue-collar Gardeners  (both are found among the clergy and laity, active and contemplative religious alike) and we work together to bring life out of the impossibility of the soil we find at our very feet.

My job isn't to convert anyone or to make them a Saint. That task belongs to God alone.  

My job IS to provide the seeds (information) to others so that the love of the Holy Spirit may take root and carry them from darkness into light, from nothingness into fullness, from death into life NONE of us can possibly imagine!

If I only plant the right seeds at the right time in the right way...there will be fruit. Eventually. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, who really doesn't NEED me to do anything at all. It's a privilege to be able to "help."

It is freeing to be a lowly incompetent gardener...may I, through God's Grace, always be so.


Owen said...

When I was in Protestant minister, as a pastor, I often heard the sales analogy and the idea of being the one who closes the sale. This places an unnecessary and in fact harmful focus on 'me' and I bore a heaviness when people rejected the offer.

As a rather new lay person serving in adult catechesis I have a freedom I never had before. For sure, I am responsible to be as competent a "soul gardener" (a phrase I've used before) as I can be under the direction of the Lord and the authority of His Church but, and this is a big difference in me (just as my family) I do not feel the burden of souls who turn away though it does bring me sadness for them and when at my best I am mindful to pray for them. I am responsible to pray and to teach and to model (God willing) in my own life. Beyond that the results, salvation, sanctification and so on are in bigger Hands than mine.

It is a great freedom and I must say I am enjoying it. Further, I believe it is gradually forming me into a better person and therefore a more competent (though far from flawless) teacher.

God bless you Adoro.

Hidden One said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hidden One said...

I understand the sales analogy and I see where it can go awry.

Applying the analogy to me, though, I must say that I suck at sales... not that I'm talented at it, but I must say that I think God has me in the customer service department... No returns, refunds, or exchanges, I can't fix your product (see the Repairs Department - those guys over there in the weird wood cubicles wearing a black dress-thing, long purple ribbons, and funny pompom hats), you have a better shot at getting my Manager's attention than I do, and yes, my instruction manuals are just about all in tiny fonts, too. Really, I sympathize. I, too, thought that mine came with a warranty, but there wasn't any 'fine print'. ... Would you like a complementary scapular? ... No, no warranty on it, either. Sorry.

I think it's past my bedtime.

Warren said...

We are all both gardeners and gardens. The "cure of souls" is a particular vocation, to be sure, belonging to the Priesthood within the Catholic Church, but as the laity we participate in this mystery, as members of the one body, in some real and mystical way.

We are ourselves both souls cultivated by the holy spirit, and instruments used (at his pleasure, not ours) to help others. I find it a great consolation to look back at times when I realize that the Holy Spirit works through people, even far-from-flawless ones like you and me.


Maggie said...

I often feel the same way, Adoro, working in catechesis. It's tempting to fall in the sales-pitch mode, but I usually try to avoid it because 1) I'm a horrible sales person and 2) when I visit a store an am pounced upon by a commission-seeking associated I almost certainly resolve to NOT buy anything there. If the same mentality is true for evangelization then I especially don't want to present a "20% today only!" vibe to the gospel.

I take great comfort in what you said, "My job isn't to convert anyone or to make them a Saint. That task belongs to God alone." It's a task in humility, to be sure, that someone's salvation and spiritual well-being can't be attributed to me, only the Holy Spirit.

Melody K said...

I love that picture of Mary that you used. The imagery of the sower reminds me of the song "Parable", which we sang at a family funeral.

Adrienne said...

As a knock-out sales person and pretty good gardener, I find the sales idea rather troublesome.

All we are doing (as you said) is throwing the seeds out and getting out of the way. Sometimes the seeds fall on rocky ground. Not my problem. God does what God needs to do. To think otherwise is to focus on ones self - always dangerous ground.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Great post.

Abbey's Road said...

Perhaps God wants you to have faith in yourself that the seeds you have planted have grown as they should. We all want to see the fruits of our labor, but how many times does someone that you've consoled our counseled actually come back to you and tell you in detail how you affected their life? All you can do is spread the Word. It is strong enough by Itself to all people if they are only open to it.

I don't care for the "sales" analogy either. It doesn't fit with Christianity. As I say on my own blog at times: Christianity - It's a Lifestyle!