Monday, June 26, 2006
Faith that Uproots and Heals
When we bought our house, the mature evergreen in the front yard provided privacy, held songbirds' birds’ nests and blessed us by staying fully clothed in the fall. While neighbors spent hours raking leaves, we spent a few minutes here and there clearing the strays that drifted into our yard.
As the years passed, we noticed that the tree grew ridiculously large but less healthy. Bare areas appeared, and weak limbs drooped. The evergreen became ever-brown. And it looked ever-sad.
My husband asked if I wanted to have it cut down, but I said, “No, not yet. It’s really expensive to have trees removed stump and all. Besides, it used to be so attractive and stately. Part of me hates to see it go.” He may not have understood my emotional attachment to a tree, but he didn't insist that we bring it down.
In time, the massive tree loomed over everything—the house, the porch and cars in the driveway. It blocked sunshine from our windows and robbed us of the chance to enjoy colorful flowers or create interesting landscaping. Although it didn’t seem possible, a tree had cast a pall over our home.
From time to time my husband offered again, “Let’s get it taken care of. Whatever joy it brought or purpose it served has passed.”
I knew the axe was inevitable, but I wasn’t ready.
Last year, despite severe damage from an ice storm, the tree hung in there like a pummeled boxer—wobbly and swaying, but still standing. If a tree could be tenacious, this one was defiantly stubborn.
This year, a midnight spring storm blew gusting winds that kept me awake. I paced from the back of the house to the front, looking out my sleeping child’s bedroom window at the beast threatening the roof over her head.
Over and over I watched the tree bend, then rebound straight and still, then suddenly lurch again at the house. I moved my child to another bed but maintained my watch out her window, realizing I couldn’t postpone dealing with the problem anymore.
My husband came into the dark room, took me by the hand and patiently asked, “Are you ready to get rid of that thing now?”
“Yes, I’m ready. I don’t see it the same way anymore; it’s diseased, ugly and threatening. Let’s cut it down.”
A couple of weeks later, I watched a tree trimming crew shred the monster into minced meat. They didn’t leave any debris, erasing every last evidence of trunk, limbs and chips. I wasn’t sorry to see it go. I walked out to the dirt circle where the tree had been and saw that we would now need to tend to the bare spot by planting grass, watering it, and maintaining it with extra care, but the peace of mind was worth it. Sunshine flooding into our home was worth it.
Today, when I saw the first sprouts of grass, I remembered a time when I carried an emotional burden as menacing as that tree. I had allowed a personal issue to become monstrously warped. Consequently, I was so consumed and distracted that no matter where I went or what I was doing, the emotional “tree” lurked in my thoughts, casting a shadow on my life, changing who I was and how I interacted with others, even my precious children. Feeling overwhelmed and yet reluctant to accept help, I let the destructive roots grow deep and spread, undermining every aspect of my life. Ironically, as heavy as the burden was, part of me was reluctant to see it go.
Why would I be so irrational about something so clear?
Someone once said, “Until the chronic pain of staying the same becomes worse than the temporary pain of change, you will remain in chronic pain.”
Sometimes an issue or weakness becomes so intertwined in our self image, we’re not sure who we are apart from the problem. We become defined by our struggle. Fear prevents us from saying, “Yes, I am ready to fix the problem now.” Instead we say, “I’m not ready,” to the chagrin and sorrow of those who love us and want to help.
Hopelessness also paralyzes, making us feel that we’ve dug a tunnel so deep there’s no way out. Our emotional shoes are made of lead.
But there is a way out. If the sufferer will hold to one tiny bit of faith—so tiny that perhaps she feels no immediate emotional relief, and so tiny that maybe no one can see her penlight of faith but God—she can be whole again. There is a fulfilling life waiting just beyond that last pang of change—I know because I am living it.
Holding on one more day with a seed of faith is not simplistic—in fact, it may be the most complex, difficult decision a person can make. But a little faith is powerful; it can drive away fear and hopelessness and move into the rooms where they haunted us.
And then healing will rise like tender new shoots of grass in a barren place.