Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The last time Revel came over to do my yard he told me that he was cutting down the holly tree at the bottom of the deck. I didn’t want it cut down. I have enjoyed many, many hours in a hammock that is strung between the back deck fence and that tree. That it’s dead and has been dead for quite some time hasn’t bothered me one whit. It does what I want it to do, hold up a pleasant place to read. If Revel wants to cut stuff down I have a back yard full of stuff that needs cutting. I suggested that to Revel. His response was, “It’s dead wood, it’s coming down. Find a new place for your hammock.” I don’t have a new place for my hammock. I tried stringing it between two sections of the fence. That lasted all of ten minutes when the fence pulled loose and dumped me, iced tea and a collection of books in a wet mess on the ground. Thanks, Revel. Now I don’t have a place for my hammock and I have a fence that has to be fixed.
Cutting down dead wood in the yard and garden is pretty straight forward, albeit messy work. Identify what’s dead and get the chain saw out. Except that no one thinks I should have a chain saw and I don’t always know when something’s dead. I keep waiting for it to spring back to life. Only it won’t and it keeps anything new that could grow from taking root. Cutting back dead wood is necessary at various times in our lives. I know that, it’s just that there are so many other things I would rather do with my time and money. Negativity is the least of what prevents new growth. Outdated beliefs, hidden agendas, and personal myths we call truth all prevent growth. Cutting back dead wood in your inner life takes a little bit of time and self reflection.
Ecclesiastes has always been a source of wisdom for me, “Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these? For thou doest not inquire wisely concerning this." Ecclesiastes 7:10. The danger with self reflection is that looking at can become an excuse for looking back and making a dangerous foray into a mythological past. When we see what we thought something was we close our eyes and hearts to what is true about it now. We look back at a past tainted by longing for what we thought it was and become blind to the effect that has on our lives. It shouldn’t take landing on our butts in a wet mess for us to break out the chainsaws.
In The Sacred Journey Fredrick Buechner writes, “We cannot live out our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned into pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all is to live deaf to the fullness of the music.” It is an act of self love to occasionally look back, not with longing and regret but clear sighted faith so that we can clear away the dead wood that we have hung our lives on. Then and only then can we begin the task of recreating our lives and our world anew.