by Maria Wilson
It was January and I was looking ahead to a new year and pondering what God would have for me in 2019. I had been reading books about sisters in Christ who lived long ago and how they nurtured their faith. I discovered Hildegard of Bingen who lived in the twelfth century. She had grown up with wealth and privilege but chose to live a life of poverty in service to others. She wrote music and poetry but spent a majority of her time caring for the poor and sick. She studied herbs and plants to treat illnesses. One of the things she wrote about was the idea of “viriditas” which means the “greening power of God”. She saw this not only in the lushness of the physical world but also in relation to our spiritual selves. Hildegard wrote often about an inner life that is fruitful and fulfilling. One of the scripture passages quoted in the book I was reading said,
I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live. Deuteronomy 30:19
Of course, I wanted to choose life, but what spiritual practices would nourish life and what was dry and draining?
It was around this time that I had the opportunity to travel to Arizona with my husband. (Not a hard choice when it is January in Wisconsin!) My husband was busy with a conference during the day and I had the opportunity to enjoy the resort we were staying at. One of my spiritual practices is to walk slowly and meditatively. I pause and notice what draws my attention as I walk. This particular resort was designed with a series of outdoor courtyards. Each one had different plantings, stones and sometimes benches. It was, to me, an invitation to sit and ponder and notice.
I have never been a huge fan of cacti. I prefer lush greenness and ocean views. But since this was the desert, each courtyard had different cacti along with the stones and sand. Interestingly enough these cacti reminded me of what I had been reading and studying about Hildegard. She encouraged me to notice the life within the cacti, not necessarily obvious to the eye. There was growth and life happening, but it was slower and more hidden.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin writes about the, “slow, good work of God.” And this was what I was meant to notice. Spiritual growth and life aren’t always externally evident but are a deeper internal work of God’s spirit in the life of the believer. This was an encouraging thought not only for myself, but also for those that I meet with. We might not see quick external changes but when we trust in that deeper “viriditas” that is happening at the very core of our soul, we can make choices that bring life and growth. This is how I found God in an unexpected place-a cactus!