THE central image in this book is the garden and the experience of growing plants. Readers do not have to be skilled gardeners, but the experience of growing flowers or vegetables — or, at least, of observing plants grow — will make the imagery more vivid.
Christopher Chapman is exploring how we can cooperate with God to bring about our growth and maturity. He has four central themes: being “Rooted and Grounded”; “Emergence”; “The Struggle towards Abundance”; and “Fruitfulness and Fall”. He expands on these “movements” with reference to the seasons of the year, the experience in the garden and countryside, his own life experience, biblical texts, and examples from the Christian tradition. This provides a wealth of material for consideration; so, helpfully, most chapters have stopping-points and a “For Reflection” section at the end.
Chapman also includes a chapter on “Supporting Growth” for spiritual directors and others who accompany people in growth. Here he draws out both the essence of each “movement” and some pitfalls for such mentors.
This gentle book is one to be read slowly, though readers might want an overview to identify which section is most relevant now. Chapman maintains that, like the seasons, growth is cyclical, with an underlying rhythm; so, for example, readers might be at a time of fruitfulness (with the associated autumnal fall) or might be just emerging into a new time of growth. He begins before all that, with the bare (or weed-filled) earth and seeds going into the ground. This is valuable, because where we start from — the circumstances of our lives, our personalities, how we engage with God now — is hugely important in the growing process.
The tone throughout is encouraging, that readers may be hopeful, take the next step(s), and let God do what God does in our growth.
Dr Anne Spalding is a member of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis, and lives in Suffolk.
Earthed in God: Four movements of spiritual growth
Canterbury Press £18.99
Church Times Bookshop £17.10