Scripture: Ezekiel 17:22-24
Ezekiel to me is one of the weirder books of scripture. I do not know why I feel that way, probably because the ancient alien folks use it so often. If you believe in ancient aliens do not be offended, aliens just FREAK me out so I would rather call them angels.
As I reflect on this scripture I contemplate spirituality. We all know there are various spirtual practices drawing from Celtic, Arab, Hebrew, and Oriental roots just to mention a few. Even Christian mysticism or spirituality draws from various backgrounds to bring us our practices today. The point is not from where the practice originated but if it is bringing us closer to God.
This pasage speaks about God bringing about something new out of something that already existed. In various horticultural practices we see this happening. If you have ever planted a rose you have most likely planted a hybrid rose. These hybrids graft two different varieties of roses together to gain the benifit of both. One may have a better root system another disease resistance. They will breed the plants naturally to form the best color, fragance, and resistance they need then they will carefully cut the flowering portion off of one and physically join it to the root system of another, they tape these together so that the roots of one plant will grow together with the stock of the other. It is very technical and beautiful. They use this same practice in many different types of ornimental and fruiting plants.
There is much research and disipline going into these practices, people invest their entire careers to perfect just one rose bush, and in the case of a vinyard or orchard many lifetimes have been invested to gain the prized product. Our spiritual lives are much like this. We must be careful not to haphazardly bind practices together that do not complement each other. It would not work well to combine the ritual sacrifices of Hinduism with Christian mystism because the theological bases do not mesh. However yoga could be grafted into our spiritual lives. Another concept that has been grafted into Christian discipleship throughout history is the labyrinth. In ancient times people would travel to Israel to walk the paths of Christ. Today people still gain incredible spiritual encouragement from these trips. Eventually due to hostlity and economics it became nearly impossible for many to visit the Holy sites, especially during the Crusades. As a substitute many Medieval cathedral began to incorporate the sacred pathway of a labyrinth into their design so that people could travel to places like Chartres to reflect their spiritual lives on Christ while they physically walk a path. If you want to know more the use of the labyrinth in Christian spiriuality I encourage you to read Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, by Lauren Artress.
Of course many people will question the incorporation of spiritual practices from other traditons into Christianity, and rightfully so. We must be careful what we do and only do things that direct our mind, body, and spirit toward our goals (in the Christian view this would be closer to Christ). You may ask why I’m going on a rant about these practices? Well I write what comes to mind, and as I consider God taking the top of a ceder and planting it down in the ground to grow something new, I think of the continual emergance of Christ centered spirituality in the world. In our various practices, denominations, and orders we have a multitude of different traditions, yet in the end we are pressing for the same goal. These practices have emerged from various backgrounds and for various reasons. Mainly because what one group was focusing on others found to be dry and dead. For them to stay doing the same thing they were faced with spiritual dry rot. Their lives looked good to everyone around them yet inside under the facade they are filled with dust that is barely holding together. God needs to bring new life into the dry tree. At times in history we see movements rise up quickly and the fall away almost as quickly. In those cases God may have needed to dry out the green tree because it had gotten off track or possibly the world was not yet ready for that type of expression in the mainstream.
The point is that God wants you to have a growing, green spiritual life that will grow branches to provide comfort and saftey to others, and bear fruit. You may be feeling a bit dry in your walk right now, this may not mean that you are doing anything wrong, but it may also mean it is tim to look for a different way to encourage spiritual growth. It may not be anything more than trying out a different type of music for a while, or maybe incorpating excersise, gardening, or art into your prayer life. You may find that your traditional style is right where you need to be and go back, you may also find that there was something detrimental to growth in the faith community you were in. As a disciple of Christ our goal should be to continuously grow into His likeness. I encourageyou to explore some of the various methods used throughout Christianity. If you are unsure or unaware of other aspects of spiritual practices there are people that are eager to help you explore. Many of the are members of Spiritual Directors International, which is a group dedicated to help people like you and me deepen our spiritual lives.
I personally have spent time exploring many aspects of prayer and discipline, some of them I have added to my own spirtual journey others I have found little growth with but the experience was intresting and enriching. I have also spent time consulting a spiritual director to assist me in my own personal walk. To prevent dry rot in your spiritual lives be adventurous. The journey should be challenging, trying, and fun but ultimately it will help you find who you were meant to be.