“Better late than never” was the phrase that came to mind. I was planting climbing beans in mid-Summer. “Is it too late?” I wondered so I sought advice about planting in Melbourne. No – apparently January was the latest I could plant.
I found the seed packets given by a friend with “I know they are old but some of them might be useful.” How could I pass up “Bean Climbing 3 Colour Mix” even if the best before date was 3 years ago? With Blue Lake, Golden Pole Wax and Purple King, and the promise of a 1.2 kg yield per plant in 10 weeks, I was committed.
I built a bean tee pee with bamboo poles so the beans could climb if they did germinate in the projected 8 – 10 days. If the seeds did not germinate, plan B would be to buy some more as it would still be mid-January. Now I am waiting. And plan C, if it is actually too late then I learn a lesson for next year.
“Better late than never,” was a phrase I used when I was a parish priest. People would arrive late for worship and then creep in trying to be inconspicuous and looking embarrassed. After the service I would greet them and if they raised the topic of being late I would respond with “I am so glad you are here and that you honoured your soul. Better late than never.” I know that life can intervene in a family with young children, or that getting ready takes longer than expected for a person convalescing from an illness.
One woman, who lived with clinical depression, was regularly late, particularly when she had experienced a bad night. The hangover like side-effect of her medication made her slow in the mornings. Yet her determination to be there was so strong she would gradually do the next thing, then the next thing until she arrived at the church. We enjoyed her sensitive leadership of the prayers each month and her inclusion of silence for others to offer what was on their hearts. Given the health challenges she lived with I was inspired by the heroism of her efforts. Some would say it was just too hard, and stay at home. She lived the phrase “better late than never” as she knew the harvest she would reap for her efforts.
When Plans are Disrupted
“Better late than never” applies to me now,” I realised, as I watered the newly sown beans. “Better late than never” applies to this blog. I last blogged from Toronto just before I went on retreat in April 2017, expecting to blog again on my return home a month later.
Well, life intervened. I had to complete a 6000 word essay towards a Masters in Spiritual Direction. Before that was due we were given notice to move house within three months. Then the house hunting and packing started in earnest, while we seriously discerned whether to purchase then or wait. We decided to rent for another year and moved house late August. My mother had a stroke and died two weeks later. In mid-December my father in law died, then our son came to convalesce after surgery.
Reconnecting to Original Intention
In January people talk of new resolutions or making plans for the year ahead. Returning to the blog is not new. Rather, it is reconnecting to the original creative movement or desire that emerged about eighteen months ago. “Better late than never” is resuming the momentum, albeit as a changed person, thus honouring the earlier discernment and intention.
Maybe there is some project or situation that you would like to reconnect with and wonder whether it is too late. Is being later than you might have expected actually a hindrance to participation now? Can you pick up where you left off? What might need to be dusted off for you to resume? Have circumstances changed or opened up now allowing the space for your involvement to occur? What might be a next step in exploring the possibility?
Even Jesus was late!
I wondered whether Jesus had ever been late. Martha of Bethany, in anguished tones, accuses Jesus of being late. “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died” she throws at him. She then offers the corrective, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Similarly, Mary of Bethany says “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died,” then weeps at his feet. Jesus is deeply moved by their grief and weeps himself for Lazarus. The sisters lead Jesus to the tomb and he asks for the removal of the stone. He prays to his Father, and then shouts, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus stumbles out still bound in strips of cloth. Jesus says“Unbind him, and let him go.”
Martha and Mary experience the benefit of Jesus being “better late than never!” In fact, the way this story is presented, being late is an important narrative device to show the power of God. Not that I am saying you should be deliberately late. That is certainly not the case on my part. However, this story hints that God can still bring benefit and can make the most of a “better late than never” situation.
Conditions for Growth
As I water the bean seeds morning and evening I ponder the hidden processes that occur before germination. Beans need to be kept moist for germination, so watering twice a day, is essential, then once a day after germination. They are predictable in their growth pattern, hence used in kindergarten and primary school, on a bed of cotton wool, to show how seeds grow. Maybe you remember such an experiment from your childhood.
Holding the hose I consider what conditions the beans need – stability (they do not like being transplanted so have to be sown directly where they will grow), nutrients, sun and water. I wonder what conditions I will need to nurture writing for this blog. Stability is important to me – I have found the disruption of moving unsettling yet gardening is a way of grounding me and, literally, putting down roots in this place. As I continue to water the beans other answers to that question will arise, and no doubt, better late than never!
Trust the unfolding
Now it is February. “February is the new January,” I was told in a recent email, “the real beginning of the year as attested to by teachers and parents.” February is our favourite time for holidays due to great weather and no crowds, so ten days on the coast (without internet) has been rejuvenating. I did have that nagging feeling that the blog writing might slip away, yet continued to trust the unfolding. So here I am, having returned, beginning again, better late than never.
As for the beans, Plan A gave a 15% germination rate. I was excited that a few where virulent enough to appear and pleased that I had sown them, better late than never! Plan B was activated with 100% germination and all are now growing healthily.
It is never too late to begin spiritual direction. I currently have openings for people seeking companionship on the spiritual path. Spiritual direction is about paying attention to the direction of your life – my role is to help you focus on your own direction, be alert to the movements of God within you and discern your next step. Allow yourself to be encouraged by the quiet attentive focus of an insightful, creative and prayerful spiritual director.
Contact me today to book your free 20 minute spiritual direction phone conversation. Together we can explore what spiritual direction could offer you.