by Cheryl Witham
..that they should seek God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each of us, for “In him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:27-28a
When the vines are young, they begin to attach themselves to plants and trees, anything that will lift them from the ground to the canopy of the woods. Some attach themselves to the limbs of trees and are pulled upward as the tree grows toward the sun. Others find their way to the trunk and wind their own way upward. Over the course of time they become attached and enmeshed in the place they have been planted. Their identity is fixed in that place. When a branch is broken or a tree falls in a storm, they fall as well.
As one who walks through the woods noticing the beauty of creation, at first I wondered about those vines that have been carried straight to the top – those having their branches spread throughout the upper canopy. How fortunate they are in their attachment choices – as if they made a choice. But it is the ones who are curved and twisted that catch my attention and interest. Those are the ones with character. They seem to have a story that involved many directions; a journey that has made them interesting, even beautiful.
I notice, my eye is much more drawn to the vine than the vehicle who carries her – but she would not be where she is were it not for the one she was attached to. At times she looks strong in herself, yet her real strength is only in the tree who stands next to or above her.
Some vines have nothing to lift them above the ground, they still attach themselves to the things that surround them, covering stumps, or lifeless refuse. They are not carried anywhere, yet they equally become entangled in the place they are. Their branches serve to cover over, to hide whatever lies beneath. It is only in the winter months that we see what is really there. Their presence may be a kind of protection, but if one is to clear those places, seeking to make them productive and fruitful, great effort is necessary to pull the tentacles from the among the places the vines have wandered.
Lent comes in the last of winter, a time when the vines are bare and what lies beneath them is exposed. It is time when we are invited, through the means of spiritual disciplines to examine as it were our attachments. The intention of discipline is growth in maturity and freedom, but the experience of disciple often brings us to a place of recognizing where we are and what we are depending on for our life and our lifting. We might notice the direction those things we are attached to are taking us. It might be time for a new twist, a turning. When we try to give-up a pattern, or a privilege, we begin to see just how attached we are to our place; our way of being.
The experience of detachment, of freedom, requires a partnership. No vine frees itself. It is often the storms, the tragedies that serve as means of change. Those things are not planned or even expected. They come in the journey of life. But when the opportunities come to change, to grow in a different direction, the vine must let go of the place it is. In some ways it dies. Then it is free to go a new direction and attach itself to a New Source.