Inner Work and Trees

“To work without praying and without listening means only to grow and spread oneself upward, without striking roots and without an equivalent in the earth.” — Helmut Thielicke

I’m no dendrologist which, I had to look up, is the person who studies trees. I don’t know what makes one tree grow while another is stunted. While I do enjoy pretending to care for plants, I wouldn’t say that any of my plants thrive but most of them just hang on to life…barely.

I don’t understand what makes a tree grow but I do enjoy the shade of a healthy tree on a hot summer day. I don’t understand why some of my plants bloom and others don’t, but I sure do favor the ones that do. I don’t understand what it takes to manage a place like the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens but I know it’s a lovely place to be.

A healthy and thriving plant is a very nice thing, but rarely do we consider all that goes on to make it a healthy and thriving plant. Rarely do we consider the inner work.

Plant life is not my specialty. I can enjoy it but I don’t know it. The spirituality of a human being though, while I am certainly no expert, I care greatly about. And you should too. Why, you ask? Because we all have one. We all have a spirituality, an inner aspect.

Now, while interesting to me, we are not going to get into the ontology of the human person. We’ll just agree for now that we all have an inner aspect and an outer aspect.

And I hope that we can agree that this inner aspect and this outer aspect are integrally related. The health of the inner aspect affects the outer aspect and the health of the outer aspect affects the inner aspect.

If New Year’s Day is a day to commit to working on your outer aspect (i.e. signing up for that annual gym membership that you’ll use for the first two weeks of January), the season of Lent is a time to commit to working on your inner aspect (i.e. fasting, praying, meditating, etc.).

In this difficult work, some of it will feel like we’re sludging through a never-ending field of mud. But even so, with each day of committed sludging, our spiritual muscles are getting stronger. Maybe, by God’s grace, we’ll have breakthrough moments, when enlightenment falls upon us and the presence of God will be unveiled within us.

Regardless of the outcome though, we must know that the inner work is always worth it. May we be encouraged to take time for ourselves to work on ourselves. May we find the diligence to stick with it when it gets difficult and may we be strengthened in our inner person.

Peace to you,


Michael Mills

Inner Work and Trees
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