I first heard the Bamboo Parable when I was a kid, I imagine most of you have heard it too. No? It’s the story of beautiful Bamboo, who freely allows its Master to chop it down, hack it open, and use it to bring life-giving water to parched land. Here’s an effective retelling. Whatever its origins, the Bamboo Parable inevitably reminds me of Jesus, and the necessity of each Christian to imitate Him, that is, to die to self: “Verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it stays alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.” You know about that unpleasant side of Christianity, right?
I never cared for that story. Its implications were too inconvenient. I bet folks such as Mother Teresa liked it just fine; but then, I found Mama T to be on the inconvenient side of Christianity as well.
And this little prayer: “Lord take me and do with me as you will.” A riff on the Bamboo Parable: beguiling and beautiful, but also scary. I’ve heard umpteen versions of that prayer for decades. But I would never say that prayer because if I did, what dreadful thing might I be getting myself into?
In 2004 my parish published a pamphlet called A Simple way of Life. Only 8 pages long, but with a respectable, substantial cover, which made it too nice to throw away. Pages 6 and 7 elaborated on some hallmarks of being “a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus,” who:
Prays every day.
Worships at least once a week in the Most Holy Eucharist.
Studies Sacred Scripture every day.
Confesses my sins regularly in the Sacrament of Penance.
Serves others in the Name of Jesus Christ.
Shares my personal gifts, time, and money with the Lord and His Church.
Connects with other disciples in the Christian community.
Evangelizes the world through my words and deeds.
Isn’t that a pithy list? I love it. I’d re-read pages 1-7 a few times a year, see how I was doing. Pretty good, I’d say. But page 8 was problematic- like the Bamboo Parable. This is what page 8 says:
By the grace of my Baptism and with the help and mercy of God, I commit myself to strive to live according to this Simple Way of Life.
Name of Disciple
I would not sign and date page 8. That’s asking for trouble. I’m no Father Damien. I don’t invite bad stuff to happen. Careful is good, cautious is better. But badstuff happens despite care and caution; and I learned that enduring the badstuff with a Jesus worldview makes it not just bearable, but…worthwhile. And in 2012, more than 8 years after first reading A Simple Way of Life, I signed and dated page 8.
That’s a few years ago now. I can’t say that I’m a better Christian today, but I do ask God to use me as he will; I try to bust out of my comfort zone; and I accept that being the Bamboo is hardly the worst thing that could happen to me.