A few weeks ago I broke the wooden handle on my shovel. This week my wife bought me a new one. It’s a Kobalt and guaranteed “unbreakable“. I did bend it a little today uprooting a stubborn bush. So unbreakable? Perhaps. Un-bendable? Nope.
It was, still is, a gorgeous day outside. Tomorrow the heat and humidity are supposed to come sweeping in but we enjoyed the moment of this day by working way too hard. We’re both exhausted but it’s a good tired.
As I dug holes for bushes and trees, filled the back of the truck with dirt and planted some grass with my new shovel I thought about the digging we do in our lives. Stillness, mindfulness, reflection are basically the same discipline with its goal to remove anything that stifles the life within us.
Digging around isn’t easy on the outside or on the inside but it’s necessary if we are to make old things new, ugly stuff beautiful, and go deep enough that growth, life, is possible.
Last week a huge limb from one of our oldest trees snapped and fell into our yard. Today was clean up day. I started this morning hoping it would only take a couple of hours. However, it took all day and we’re still not quite finished. The size of the limb meant there were going to be numerous and large branches attached. We sawed and pried and twisted until we didn’t have any energy left. After we made the last trip to a neighbor’s who is trying to fill in a dried up pond to dump a truckload of debris we came home, showered and collapsed.
As we worked on the enormous project I noticed that most of the leaves had dried up and died. The storm, which had blown the limb down, had robbed most of the leaves of their nutrients by disconnecting them from their source of life. But, there were a few branches whose leaves were still green. Their life source had not been disconnected even though they had experienced the same storm.
I reflected on the similarities in people when their path takes them through a time of testing, a season of storms. Some seem to wilt under the pressure while others, in spite of the chaos of the present moment, continue to thrive.
Wisdom teaches us it is who, what, our source of life is that allows us to experience the worst and yet still live. Being connected to who, what is deeply rooted is the difference between life and death.
A few weeks ago Beth and I began planting several different types of trees. Some are fruit trees others are for privacy as land around us is being sold. We chose Leyland Cypress for this because they were recommended for quick growth and their thickness which is tough for prying eyes to see through.
However, over the last seven to ten days brown spots have begun showing up on the limbs. We’ve been watering the trees but this hasn’t stopped the brown spots from appearing. This week Beth talked to a landscaper who suggested cutting pieces of PVC pipe about 18 inches, drilling holes in them and driving them into the ground near the trees. Leyland Cypress, once they are rooted will take care of themselves, but until that occurs they need lots of water and for it to be delivered to the roots underneath the soil. The PVC pipes will distribute the water deeper to the roots that need it most.
The pipes will have to wait for this weekend but I reflected on the advice as we watered the trees tonight. I thought of how we live in a world where we water the top, take care of the surface, make what people see look good and too often ignore what’s deep inside of us. We are more concerned with what’s seen than unseen. As a result, we begin to die. What’s not being taken care of at the deepest part of our spirits, what counts the most, is not being nurtured and sooner or later it shows itself on the surface.
Changing Course –
Changing course is never easy. I was speaking with some men today and we were talking about our ability to make course corrections, live life in transition, embrace the transient nature of reality.
Even though I lecture on the changes that life is made up of, I am one who is not comfortable with transitions. Some people are; “go with the flow” kind of folks. I am a dam up the stream, stop and enjoy the view type of person! However, I also know that water becomes stagnant, contaminated, stale and useless.
Life isn’t made to be still which is why the stillness we seek needs to be deeper than what seems real on the surface. It is in the depths of our souls where peace and strength are found to handle and perhaps even enjoy the quick pace and fast changes life brings our way.
Someone asked me last week; “How long does it take to heal a broken heart? How long before you’ve moved past the pain, betrayal and loss? How long before it doesn’t hurt any more?” I wearily smiled and replied; “I’ll let you know, as soon as it happens.”
The act of forgiving someone is more than saying the words; “I forgive you.” It is a head and heart change, a spirit and emotional shift that takes time. Forgiveness is a process, a journey, which begins with some of the most difficult steps we can ever make. When someone has consciously, purposefully wounded us, torn apart a relationship, chosen to grievously harm us, there is no; “quick fix” prayer, magical spell or shortcut to a place of healing. To forgive is to make the choice to move on, not hold on to the bitterness and heartache, to allow the offending party and yourself to be free, and this choice is repeated many times.
The path of forgiveness is at first a downward spiral. We journey deep into ourselves and come face to face with the pain caused by the other. We admit and accept the hurt which has been done to us. We then bring the injury into the light by talking about it with someone we trust, someone who can help us navigate the path from brokenness to wholeness. Depending on the depth of the wound, healing, forgiveness, could take years. Remember it is a choice to let go of the blame, the pain and the burden of carrying around an act of selfishness, carelessness and callousness done to us by another. The choice is to hold on to the hurt or embrace freedom of mind, body and spirit. The decision might be made countless times until the impact of the betrayal is finally, permanently, all gone and we find the long, hard path to restoration complete and worth it.
Our neighbor across the road is doing some excavating. He has removed several large trees, some unsightly hedges and leveled a few large mounds of dirt. He’s also expanding, what could generously be called a waterhole, where his cows like to hangout on long hot summer days.
To do this expansion he’s using a bulldozer and a large backhoe. The workers he hired start early and stop late. The bulldozer isn’t too bad; a steady hum as it pushes the dirt around. The backhoe, however, is a different story. The workers are using it to dig deeper and most of what the large yellow machine scoops up is mud and muck.
After the driver fills the scooper he swings the cab around and empties his load. Because the goop is sticky, the driver uses the controls to force the scooper to shake violently to loosen the gunk. When he does this the large metal contraption makes an awful and annoying amount of noise. Last night they worked past sundown and my nerves were worn threadbare.
This morning, as I looked at the ever expanding waterhole, I was reflecting upon the truth that going deeper in our minds, emotions and spirits, isn’t easy, clean or fun either. It’s hard work, shakes us to our core, wears us out and we wonder how long until it’s finished. Unfortunately, the only answer is; when it’s deep enough.
The voices are out in full force this week. Loud, screaming, oftentimes obnoxious, shrill, shrieking at the top of many lungs. Some are voices of triumph and victory, others wailing and bemoaning the downfall of life as we know it.
Flags were taken down, banners were unfurled. People protested in the streets while others celebrated. Declarations to keep fighting were pledged while some gave up, gave in and would be prophets pronounced judgment and Armageddon on a nation and world.
It’s been a tough week to be quiet, still, focused. The noise of change, transition, strife and struggle tries to drag us to the surface away from the deep; where serenity and calm reside. The temptation to jump into the fray, loudly declare our opinion, join our voices to the cacophony and relentless waves of sound surrounds and penetrates us.
Wisdom pleads with us to resist. Drop, plunge, drift, deep into the place where the shifting surface no longer threatens, the howls of the winds, the roaring of the breakers cannot deafen, where grace and peace whispers your name.