Monday, May 5, 2008

Roots, Rocks and the Garden of Misfit Plants

Yesterday afternoon I was tilling up a section of yard for an auxiliary (ancillary?) garden. Our garden "proper" has tomatoes, peas, lettuce, radishes and other members of the vegetable kingdom that tend to stay where you plant them, are typically well mannered, and generally have some sense of personal space. This "other" plot of ground, however, has been reserved for squash, watermelon, cantaloupe and their like. Vegetation that starts exploring the moment it is planted, has no problem ignoring boundaries, and contains no sense of personal space. It is a garden for misfit plants.

Kind of like the island of misfit toys.

Our home has a rather large back "yard" - which the previous (and original) owners had left to go more and more wild as they grew older. Over the past few years we have been steadily reclaiming the more adventuresome portions of yard and have even made progress in taming the "jungle" of oak woods and brush behind the back fence. The particular spot that we have reserved for the misfit melons and such had previously been possessed by an old maple tree stump and various species of small sucker trees and scrub brush.

I had removed the majority of the scrub and sucker shoots three years ago, but the old (large) maple tree stump remained to become a pet project of my dad's during my folk's extended fall and spring migratory stops at our home. After several chainsaw blades and days of shoveling, prying, roping, block and tackling, and quality time with a pick axe, the stump finally gave it up for the team and was hauled one massive mangled puzzle piece at a time to the burn pile.

The formerly overgrown tangle of stump and brush now appears as a smooth, level plot of ground; an ideal location for the new garden of maladjusted melons!

But then, as my arms were being yanked from their sockets by a rototiller futilely attempting to unearth yet another section of buried tree/brush/sucker roots, I was re-reminded that our lives are determined not by how things appear, but by what, in reality, is really there.

Although, on the surface, the stump and suckers had been removed, underneath there was still ample evidence of their existence. And though much pain and agony had been done to remove the stump, still further work was needed to make the ground suitable for a garden. The barely covered roots had to be identified - usually by the rototiller - and removed, with a shovel, pick and an axe. Furthermore, much fertilizer and organic matter needed to be added to the remaining sandy soil to give the garden plants something to grow on.

This garden plot reminded me of another garden plot. As a child we lived in a house that also had a well situated plot in the back yard for a garden. But upon breaking ground for that garden we found rocks, rocks and more rocks. The first year of that garden's existence saw something like 15 pickup beds full of rocks removed from that one plot of ground. The next year another four or five, and the following year two or three. The end result was a bountiful garden. We found out later that the exact spot that we had chosen for that garden had previously been the neighborhood rock dump, unbeknownst to us. Although that plot had seemed to be perfect for a garden, underneath the surface were tons of rock that needed to be exhumed before a successful garden could be planted.

Our garden for misguided melons also made me think of myself. I am not a person who wears his emotions on his sleeve. Most often I have a calm exterior and take most of what happens in life in stride - maybe more of in 'amble,' my wife has more of a 'stride.' But just because my surface seems placid doesn't mean that my life is truly that way. There are roots and rocks that lie just under the surface waiting for the plows of life to come along and hit them.

Some of my roots:

Personal injustice. If I feel I have been wronged it can twist me into some fantastic emotional balloon animal or fanciful psychiatric piece of origami. It can take days, weeks or months before some particular variation of this root is untangled, dug up and dealt with in my heart.

Personal Politics (being used). If I feel someone hasn't been genuine and has instead used (or attempted to use) me for some ulterior end. I emotionally remove them from my universe. They physically exist, but I do not ask them for advice, the time of day, or anything in between. This is a very difficult root to exhume for me because it involves choosing to trust someone whom I feel has proven to be untrustworthy.

Misunderstanding. I am a peacemaker at heart. Peacemaking usually involves a person (or people) owning up to their stuff and apologizing and asking for forgiveness. With misunderstanding there are all the emotions of being wronged, but in the end no wrong was done. And what do you do with that? Let it go. . . Right. . . I understand this. But this is akin to telling me I am over weight (which I am), and so need to eat less and exercise more over an extended period of time. I understand this. But practicing both these understandings, is very hard for me to do. And therefore a troublesome root for me.

The "laundry day" bed at the end of the day. Frivolous I know. But at a day's end, walking into a bedroom with a bare mattress and sheets on the floor, can boil all the impatience in my life's stew right to the surface. A smelly, distasteful root.

My root list goes on, but it is enough to say that I have my many and various roots.

And you have your roots too.

And your spouse, friend, co-worker, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc. all have their unique collections of roots as well.

Some people proudly display the visible twisted stumps, scrub brush and sucker plants of their lives in full view for all to see, complete with no sign to indicate any removal work will commence any time soon.

Others have lives that seem straight out of a master gardeners dream. Beautiful and serene. They display no visible issues.

But in spite of appearances, we are each gardens filled with rocks and roots, visible or not. And our lives interact with and crash into one another on many levels. We each act as instruments in each other's lives. We can be tillers and be in turn tilled. We can shovel, and pick and pull. We can even plant an encouragement or a word of advice or allow another to plant in our own lives as well.

Roots grow back, rocks work their way up, soil is depleted. Life ebbs and flows. But as our lives are worked, the soil turned, rocks and roots removed, fertilizer added and God's word planted, obedience learned, and perseverance practiced, we will produce fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. A life that displays God and His love. Beautiful fruit that grows in and through the imperfect soil of our lives.

Proverbs 20:5 (NIV):
5 The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.

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