Untidy Waste of Life

file00019483337 Weeds BramblesWeeds. Even in the small garden they are a bother. I yank them out and throw them onto the driveway, making a mess instead of tossing them in a bucket to be composted.

Composting is a good thing, though. We take weeds and organic waste, and jumble it together to make a rich soil. This new material spread around plants gives nourishment for growth and fruitfulness.

Light and water when added to the waste pile encourages microorganisms to break down the unwanted materials. It takes both fresh green material and old, dried up matter to create good compost.

There is purposefulness to composting. It requires a willingness to carry your weeds to a place to be transformed into what gardeners often call “black gold.” It takes some work, too. Once the waste is gathered and piled in a sunny spot, and watered down to activate its decomposition, it must be turned regularly. Sure, the compost can sit unattended, but then the process is incomplete and the weeds will grow happy in the mound of compost.

Weeds and waste will always be part of the garden, even the garden of our soul in which the Lord takes his delight. He knows that. He also knows the value of weeding out and composting the waste for one’s inner garden to become more productive, more fruitful.

I find that Adoration is the place of this transformation, where the pile of debris gets flipped, where composting the black of sin—old or fresh—is  changed, slowly, into something of value, gold—the black gold of the garden that nourishes.

I wonder why I am so unsettled by the thought of composting the waste in my life.

In my heart there is forgiveness, many times for the actions of others, and almost as many for my own. I never realized my unwillingness to go beyond forgiveness—the pulling of weeds—to the cycle of finding purposefulness from the discarded waste. The waste of life that was rooted out is strewn about, untidy, unkempt, and unattended, re-rooting to grow again.

And here I thought weeding was enough.

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Impenetrability and Stagnant Love

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The morning was dense with fog—the kind of fog so thick you can taste it when you breathe. Even stepping off the porch would be an act of faith. I would be lost between the car and the door. Rather than go into the unknown—well, to the mail box—I went back to my rooms.

This week a lot of energy has been spent trying to focus through a fog. I have found myself unwilling to step off the platform of undeserving of love and must choose either to remain as I am or fall into the unknown.

The experience of being unloved and rejected is, obviously, painful. For some it began as children. As adults it can come from within a marriage, or being shunned by individuals that dislike who we aren’t—not necessarily who we are.

No matter how justified the wariness is, once a pattern of self preservation is set it is hard to move beyond the security of denial. It is especially challenging as a Christian to reconcile this—the absence and denial of being loved—with Holy Love. We want to know the intimacy of God and for one reason or another we lack the emotional resources to claim it.

I came across this comment in Magnificat (V. 16, No. 8, P. 164) and felt a waggling finger of shame:

This is the phenomenon of impenetrability: the refusal to let ourselves be struck even by the most beautiful thing that is put before us. We prefer instead to let ourselves remain all closed—we do not let our “I” be touched by anything, even the “You” of God.

This phenomenon of impenetrability is the denial of fully receiving God’s love because we are protecting ourselves from connection with human love.

Many of us have experienced the cutting edges of love and rage, desire and apathy, genuinely cared for or groomed for abuse. We lack the carefree notion of affection and are cautious, resistive, and watchful.

If for all of our life we have found seeking love to be unfulfilling, and even dangerous, then its beauty is lost to us, though its value is still appreciated. The fullness of love is refused on the grounds of survival. The pain of being repeatedly unwanted, brings on a protectiveness of the heart—not necessarily its hardening.

Now, in learning to love God, we often begin with a sense of working towards it. We choose to be virtuous because that is what Our Lord desires from us. We discover the gifts of the Spirit and become active in exemplifying them.

I imagine this to also be true when people marry; initial behaviors of practicing what a good marriage should look like. But then there is a transition. The spouse who once did this or that because it should be so, transitions into actively doing something because it pleases the other. Love creates movement from conscious effort to innate response.

It is in the innate loving that my effort of maintaining impenetrability breaks down. I am able to express love, and can receive it from others to a level of tolerable—which translates as keeping a safe distance. I prefer detachment. My vision is clearer the wider the scope.

But this week I have found my greatest sin: my refusal to let myself be struck by the fullness of love. Impenetrability.

I am the person at the wedding feast in Matthew 22:11-12, eager to attend and excited to be there, but am not clothed in the proper garment. I know what the proper attire is—clothed in love—and know what is expected for the momentous occasion of my death. My own fear of the beauty of wearing such a garment denies me the full joy in the final celebration.

It all falls back to self preservation. The fear of…well most every human encounter offering even the slightest fragrance of intimacy. I like people and their company; I fall short loving them as freely as I love Christ.

It is here that I realize my behaving in a manner to please our Lord, which is not a bad thing. But now I have entered into the space, as most spouses eventually do, of behaving out of love and not responsibility or need.

A whole new road awaits—one where I must travel fearlessly, though not recklessly, among the robbers, praying the fog will lift.

Perils of Digging Potatoes

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I’ve been a city-dwelling gardener all my life. I’ve worked on  overgrown lots that hid a multitude of sins, to old suburban back-yards with compacted patchy lawns. When I would begin to transform a landscape I would be unsure of what would be unearthed; one year I dug up a lawn chair. Gardening was done gingerly and with gloves, and tetanus shots kept up to date.

A plant that I had grown in every yard was potatoes. I love potatoes. When I lived with my grandmother we ate them almost daily. Then I discovered, in my twenties, that I could grow them…and did. As with any vegetable, there is no comparing the flavor of home-grown produce to what is bought at the grocery store.

In early spring I would find a well drained area in the yard and prepare the city-lot for potatoes—and a vegetable patch, too. This meant not only turning the soil but sifting it for debris and glass.  Once the patch was readied, the potato-sets were planted. During the weeks that followed they were mounded, mulched, and watered. Late summer, after the plants flowered and stems started to wilt, harvesting began. I am always surprised and delighted when digging potatoes. With vegetables that grow above ground, the anticipation is quelled by watching flowers swell into fruits.  With potatoes, all is hidden.

I wasn’t one to dig potatoes using a spading fork; I found I did more harm to the tubers by using it. With only a few hills to harvest, and the mounded soil being soft, my hands worked best. There was always something a little exciting about blindly plunging bare hands into warm soil and bumping into potatoes. Wiggling fingers underneath the tubers, I would pop them up and out of the mound.

But the plunging bare hands at times would meet with peril. Pushing fingers into the soil, there is that split second when I’d realize that the pressure pushing back wasn’t a potato, and I couldn’t stop the forward motion quick enough. Then it was too late, I’d just been cut by glass. Wounded, I withdrew, dismayed but not surprised—its one of the risks of gardening in an area that was used for trash. No matter how careful I was at preparing the soil, every once in a while something nasty would work its way up and out of the depths.

A similar thing happened the other day when a sin worked its way out. There was that split second when I knew my soul was about to be wounded by a lie…but it was too late, I couldn’t stop the words. The result was calumnity—I had planted seeds of doubt in the heart of another.

And for what? To feel more important? To appear more knowledgeable? To be liked and feel part of a group? My soul is worth more than that. Worth more than a two minute sound bite, or the bitter unspoken words in my heart, or that drink  from the drive-through window that wasn’t really mine and wasn’t really free.

Little shards of glass hidden in the depths nick and wound my soul. It is one of the perils of trying to harvest truth in a world of broken pieces.