We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out. – Step 11
“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10
“You must put aside your old self which has been corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution.” – Ephesians 4:22-23
In the morning, long before dawn, he got up, left the house, and went off to a lonely place to pray.
Jesus used parables to teach great, deep principles about life and the Kingdom of God – the way things work in God’s economy. It drove (and still drives) some people nuts. Here’s one that stumped his disciples:
At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.
"What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn't put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.
"Are you listening to this? Really listening?”
The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?"
He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're blue in the face and not get it. I don't want Isaiah's forecast repeated all over again:
Your ears are open but you don't hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don't see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won't have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won't have to look,
so they won't have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.
"But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.
"Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn't take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person's heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.
"The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
"The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
"The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams." – Matthew 13:1-23 (The Message)
This passage relates to Step 11 very well in my mind, and raises three questions:
What soil describes what you started with?
What soil describes what you’re working with now?
What soil do you want going forward?
Vigorous soil. About a month ago I arranged for a colleague of mine to visit Monticello Winery and get a tour from CrossWalk’s own Stephen Corley. Even though I have been there many times, I still enjoy the tour because I learn something new each time. My friend and his family really enjoy gardening, so they were very interested in the ins and outs of growing the vines. Stephen dropped a word that my friend and I had not associated with gardening before: vigor. Stephen was explaining that his brother, Kevin, who leads up the growing side of the business, tests the soil for vigor, to see if the soil has enough vigor, or energy, to allow the vine to grow and produce good fruit. If the soil isn’t good, it’s a waste of time and money to plant. So, assuming you want a good life that grows though all of your seasons and produces fruit for yourself and others, let’s talk about what it actually takes to reinvigorate your soil.
Steps for Reinvigorating Soil
1. Pull any dead or dying plants from the previous season. Remove all weeds and garden debris, including fallen leaves and branches.
2. Squeeze a handful of the soil into a tight ball to verify the soil is ready to work. Flick the ball with your fingers. If it falls apart, the soil is dry enough to work. If the ball retains its shape or only develops a slight dent, the soil is too wet and must dry for an additional time before you can revitalize it.
3. Turn the top 6 to 8 inches of soil with a spade or hoe. Break up any large clods as you loosen the soil. Remove any old roots. Alternatively, use a power tiller to turn and loosen the soil in a large garden bed.
4. Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic matter over the soil, using compost, aged manure or leaf mold. Turn the organic matter into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil with the spade, incorporating it completely. Work in 1 inch of organic matter for each 3 inches of soil depth you are working, so if you loosen and work the soil to a 6-inch depth, apply at least 2 inches of compost.
5. Sprinkle 1 1/2 pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer over every 50 square feet of soil. Turn the fertilizer into the top 6 inches of soil so plant roots can easily absorb the nutrients after you replant. Alternatively, apply a suitable fertilizer at the correct rate for the specific plants you grow.
Things You Will Need
· Spade or hoe
· Power tiller (optional)
· Compost, manure or leaf mold
· 5-10-10 granular fertilizer
Cover the bed with plastic sheeting or 2 inches of mulch if you aren't replanting right away so weeds don't invade the fertile but empty bed.
Although an existing bed doesn't require a soil test before replanting, performing a test can verify soil pH and fertility. Perform the test at least four weeks before planting and follow the test recommendations when choosing fertilizer and amendments.
Soils and Seeing. Maintaining vigor in our soil requires intentional effort. While our innermost being, our True Selves long for all that God has for us, our culture does not lend itself to the necessary work required to keep our soil healthy. This makes the shift to soil maintenance not just work, but hard work, because culture is pervasive, shaping our eyes and hearts in ways we don’t recognize until we take measures that help us recognize it. As many have noted, people don’t see things as they are, they see things as they are. Because our prayers are shaped by what we are seeing, and what we are seeing says more about us than anything else, our prayers may at times be off base. Rohr notes:
At early-stage praying, there has usually been no real “renouncing” of the small and passing self (Mark 8:34), so it is not yet the infinite prayer of the Great Body of Christ, but the very finite prayer of a small “body” that is trying to win, succeed, and take control—with a little help from a Friend. God cannot directly answer such prayers, because frankly, they are usually for the wrong thing and from the wrong self, although we do not know that yet… People’s willingness to find God in their own struggle with life—and let it change them—is their deepest and truest obedience to God’s eternal will. We must admit this is what all of us do anyway, as “God comes to us disguised as our life”! Remember, always remember, that the heartfelt desire to do the will of God is, in fact, the truest will of God. At that point, God has won, and the ego has lost, and your prayer has already been answered. – Breathing Under Water, 79
This is the heart of Step 11, isn’t it? This step isn’t interested in grocery list prayers – though not all things on the list are bad – they are often very good – but we remember that there is something that must come first in our prayerful pursuit – the heart and will of God. The goal of prayer in its depth is to match our steps with God’s, to find ourselves walking to the beat of God’s drum, to discover ourselves continually immersed in God’s loving presence and the power it brings. With this deeper goal in mind, we are invited to a deeper form of prayer and thus transformation.
Understanding our Enneagram type can be instrumental in guiding us in our pursuit of creating healthy soil. Christopher Heuertz, in his book, The Sacred Enneagram, notes, “A contemplative approach to the Enneagram invites us to resist the reductionism of inner fragmentation; to realize we aren’t as bad as our worst moments or as good as our greatest successes—but that we are far better than we can imagine and carry the potential to be far worse than we fear” (137). A deep prayer life, then, helps us see both our greatest potential and threats – both related to our particular type. This prayerful process is just that, a process, as Heuertz explains:
“The pilgrimage home to God involves three phases: a construction phase of identity, followed by an earth-shattering deconstruction of who we thought we were, which finally brings us to the necessary reconstruction of something truer… Fundamentally what we are doing here is excavating our essence, our True Self, from the lies, programs, and temptations we’ve wrapped around our identity. We do this by practicing presence, by showing up with our whole self to the God who lovingly seeks to shape and restore us. Being truly present requires establishing a particular prayer posture in contemplative practice” (143).
As you may recall, there are three major centers referenced in the Enneagram: Instinctual, Heart, and Mind. In terms of approaching contemplative prayer, each center has its own goal and need. Those types within the Heart center (twos, threes, and fours) need to appreciate solitude, since their seeing is so often related to others. Those within the Mind center (fives, sixes, and sevens) need to focus on silence, as they tend to constantly think their way through everything – the churning needs to be quieted. Those in the Instinctual center (eights, nines, and ones) need to focus on stillness, since these types are constantly working to advance their cause. Even more specifically, each type needs to approach their center-specific emphasis with a particular mindset related to their respective triad in the enneagram. Twos, Fives, and Eights need to consent – a way of intentionally agreeing to look at acknowledge and address their particular need. Threes, Sixes, and Nines need to engage their particular mindset as an intentional act of being present. Ones, Fours, and Sevens need to rest in their mode of prayer as an intentional act of suspending their crusade in order to take stock. Obviously I cannot do justice to this complexity here, but merely want to open your eyes to the reality that there is much to discover about how your type needs to inform your prayer life, your soil management, your fulfilling Step 11.
In terms of specific forms of prayer, Heuertz offers several suggestions, all of which have served countless people for centuries. These enduring traditions of prayer include the following: Centering Prayer, The Examen, and Welcoming Prayer. Each of these can be discovered in a variety of resources, and each is nuanced in a particular way. Working with each of these may be helpful in different seasons of life, too. I offer a reference to these forms of prayer as an encouragement to firstly recognize that there are different forms of prayer than what you may have known. Realize a hallmark of each of these – they all require being alone, quiet, and still. If you are serious about deepening your relationship with God, with soil management, and with Step 11, you will not get there without engaging, consenting, or resting in some form of contemplative prayer. Our culture does not support or encourage such a waste of time, which means you will feel a constant pressure to dismiss it. But we’re talking about your life, here. Perhaps its time to take the time…
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram. Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”. There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test). In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps. You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats. CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand. In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app). Also, search for the “EnneApp” for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices. Also, look through 12Step.org for tons of helpful resources from the recovery community.