Can you point to a particular profession that was passed down from one generation to the next in your family? Five hundred years ago that was the norm. Your identity was handed down to you. If your father was a farmer, you would become a farmer. If your father was a baker, you would become a baker. Many of the questions about who you would become and what you would do with your life were answered for you. Identity was formed in the context of community.
I grew up in a small town across the street from a cornfield. My mom grew up on a farm as did her parents and grandparents. Although the cornfield was across the street from us, we were not farmers. Even so, we knew that the farmer wanted his corn to be knee high by the 4th of July to ensure a profitable harvest. You can be sure that he was watching for signs of growth and stepping in with preventive and corrective measures as needed. A seed sits under ground for a while before it germinates. It takes time to sprout and grow knee high and along the way. We may not even see any evidence of growth, but it is happening.
Thinking about how we grow, Thomas Merton wrote, “Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny.” With God’s help, each day can be an opportunity for new growth. With His help, we can become the best version of ourselves — his beloved daughter or son made to carry on his work to love and serve the world.
I recently learned of a practice winegrowers use to monitor how their crops are growing. They strategically place a rose bush at the end of each row of grapevines. Before modern machinery, the roses served as a safeguard. Their thorns prevented horses that plowed between the rows from turning too quickly. The roses kept the horse on a wider path so it didn’t trample or knock over the vines. The rose also serves as a warning sign. It is more sensitive than the grapevine so it will show signs of drought or fungus before it reaches the vine. The rose shows the vineyard keeper how to best care for vines.
What shows you that you are on the right track?
What are the conditions that you need to grow?