I’m reading The Cultivated Life: From Ceaseless Striving to Receiving Joy and it has been a very helpful and reflective read for me these last few months. I had the privilege of taking a class from Dr. Susan Phillips at Fuller when I first moved to the Bay Area. That class was so rich and fed my soul in the midst of massive transition of geography, ministry teams, and community. So I was really excited to see that she had written a new book (published by IVP, too!).
One of the main paradigms she discusses that has really shaped my thinking is whether we want our lives to be like gardens or like circuses. I haven’t been to the circus in years and years (clowns still scare me!), and this is nothing against the actual entertainment of the circus. But as a life metaphor, she describes the circus as just that, entertainment – we don’t participate there, but watch. She describes the 3 ring circus of marketplace, workplace, and cyberspace (consumerism, workaholism, and entertainment/consumerism of another sort). We live in a circus-like culture and it takes intentionality to be a cultivated garden in the midst of this. She points to John 15 and other passages showing us what it is for our lives to be in God’s garden. We can be cultivated by many things in life – whether it’s the 3 ring circus or being connected to the true vine and receiving God’s cultivation.
The reflection exercises ask what helps us get to the more ‘garden’ type of life and what things lend themselves to ‘circus’ life. In response, I’ve made some changes in the ways I use my phone in the last month: I’m checking facebook less and using the reading app more (it connects to my public library). Kevin and I set a time aside for reading at night, and have been going to bed earlier. I am trying to spend more time in nature and listening prayer, and to single-task at work. All these things combined have been so life-giving. I feel less frenetic and more grounded.
What helps you have more of a ‘garden’ type of life in the midst of our 3 ring circus culture?