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March 1, 2004
A wooden table in front of a large window, looking out on the valley from the top of the mountain. In the valley, a small lake, trees not yet studded with green buds, a curve of road. Here and there, still, a patch of snow.

On the table, a vase of forsythia in bloom.

It won't bloom outside for another week or two. But you can cut some long twigs of it and bring them inside, and if you put them in water they will bloom in the warmth of your house in a day or two. They will think it's spring already.

The precocious flowers are gratifying to us, eager as we are for spring to come. The process is known as "forcing" a bloom. You can do it to daffodils or tulips or hyacinths or any bulb. You can do it to most spring-flowering shrubs.

You can't do it to people. People have to bloom in their own time. With people, things take as long as they take. However glorious it might be, my vision of what you might someday become, and my ideas about when you should become it, are just that: mine. You don't move according to my vision or my timetable. You only move according to your own.

Not that life doesn't shape us. Spiritual growth is not a response to purely internal processes. Stuff happens to us, and when we've stopped reeling from it, we often find that we grew in the experience. But the engine of our growth is ours alone.

And it is a dependable one. Left to our own devices, free to respond to what happens, almost all of us find our way into a place of greater integrity and wisdom than we occupied upon our arrival. The things we learn this way stay with us far better than anything anyone else may try to tell us. This is what drives us crazy about young adults: they need to learn for themselves. We see danger, see certain disappointment, see a bad idea, see what they don't see -- and just about all we can do is point it out and then wring our hands until they come to it on their own. We can't force them.

But we can pray for them. In the mysterious ecology of prayer, one heart touches another and both are changed. Your heart -- invisibly, perhaps --first, borne by a power of which you have great need, when worry clutches at you. Encouraged. You are not alone in this.

And then the heart of the one for whom you pray. Prayer changes things for her, too. You are changed in your way of being with him, for one thing: calmed by your own prayer, you may become a better companion to a person in need of one. And something inside her changes as well, something of which she may not be aware, something you may not see. Spiritual growth is usually not thunderous; it is usually incremental, in tiny steps, a little at a time. It is the direction of all the creatures of God -- we are all hard-wired for growth. Diminishment is not our vector; our vector is toward greater depth. We are made that way. Soak yourself and the one you love in prayer and you align yourself with the vector of growth in his life and your own. Listen, and you can feel the rightness of it.

And then step back. Allow her process of discovery to unfold, even if you are afraid of false steps and mistakes. She is beloved, he is dear to God, and they are on their way.
Copyright © 2022 Barbara Crafton
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