Our pastor preached on Sunday about the prolific zucchini of the Pacific NorthWest. Gardeners here tend to let the zukes go and so there are many of them although none are perfect like they would be if the vines were pruned. God isn't that kind of gardener. God, the pastor said, does not accept us as we are. God prunes us.
I frowned and muttered to my son, "God does accept you as you are." My husband smiled.
If Baby N could understand, I'd tell him that God doesn't "prune" us, as in doing something deliberately to us. Life does it, un-deliberately. The cutting away and reshaping that produces us is a condition of being alive and in relationship with other living things. God is our partner and is present with us, functioning more like a midwife than a surgeon.
A girlfriend recently wrote to me about "peeling away the layers of the onion." She's talking about going deeper in understanding her essential self and her work in this world. She told me that each time that she thinks she has found the one true kernel she learns, again, that there is more to peel.
She's onto something powerful and real. As long as we are alive we are always "peeling the onion," always in motion. Certainly there are fallow seasons, but to find one thing and settle on it forever is to become stagnant. It's death.
I think my friend, my pastor and I are all talking about the same family of things. In life, we are cut back and shaped. Some of it we do intentionally, like my friend peeling her metaphorical onion. Some of it comes unbidden, a blighted branch, such as the death of a loved one or a heavy depression.
In all of this we have agency. We can choose how to engage or retreat; how to interpret and respond to the changes wrought in our lives. We may accept or decline God's company in the midst of it.
Back in college I was fixated on the phrase "the sacred in the ordinary." Today, my life feels overwhelmingly... ordinary. I have to really search to find what's so special in life. Right now the zucchini and onion are reminding me of where to find the sacred.
To be engaged in the pruning and peeling, the fallow rest, and the producing motion, all of this isn't special. As in, it's not outside of the ordinary. It's not supernatural. Rather, it is wholly (& holy) natural. It is the condition of an ordinary human. It's for everyone. And the shape we grow into bears witness to presence of God with us.