By Laurel Pattenden
Most mornings I have the pleasure of tasty warm oatmeal and the company of squirrels.
Outside our kitchen window there are many large trees that provide a “jungle gym” for the squirrels to leap and climb all day long. Several of the trees are old walnut trees that provide ready food. Through the autumn we can see the squirrels hiding their stash almost like we hide our Easter eggs getting ready for the hunt. Through the winter their nests sway at the tops of these trees in the bitterest of cold winds.
Also outside our kitchen window, past the trees, is the St. Clair river with its ice floes jamming away. At times, we can see bald eagles riding on these floes, pecking away at the fish they have managed to catch. Occasionally, the eagle will fly up into a tree outside the window. Then out come my binoculars for closer inspection. The squirrels hide out.
Squirrels and eagles sharing the yard. I wonder if the squirrel ever wishes to be an eagle? Or does the eagle ever wish to be a squirrel?
Highly unlikely, I think. They are so fulfilled being who they are meant to be, that all their energy is used for that life purpose. An eagle is an eagle. A squirrel is a squirrel. A walnut, a walnut. A tree, a tree. Divine creation.
We are part of divine creation, but we so often do not become who we are meant to be. David Whyte, a poet, has written: “Why are we the one terrible part of creation privileged to refuse our own flowering”.
The adult human is great at being one thing but pretending to be something else. For whatever reasons, we often desire to become what we are not. We put such ridiculous and strange demands on ourselves and others which keep both us and them from blooming.
We can often become our own stumbling blocks. We believe in the expectations of families, schools, political parties, churches and other institutions that demand conformity and put up roadblocks to our own God given uniqueness. The Bible mentions stumbling blocks twelve times! Yes, it is an issue for us. It needs repeating. Sometimes we don’t recognize how many of our ego demands and societies’ expectations are actually stumbling blocks.
How often do we give up on something that delights just us because it does not produce some outer feedback, recognition or some other assumed cultural value? Even though it engages us, feeds us and just seems to bubble out of us for no earthly reason. Even if we chose not to give up on it, do we dare mention it to anyone?
Take this simple example of someone (me) who likes to draws designs. Let’s say I’m brave enough to mention this to someone.
They say: “What do you do with them?” Me: “Nothing”.
They: “So you don’t show them?”
Me: “No. I just like doing them.” They: “What a waste that you don’t.” They: “What’s the point then?” They: “You could sell them.”
They: “You could make money.”
They: “At least get some recognition.” They: “Did you take lessons?”
They: “You could always move on to something more difficult.”
They: “What a waste of time if you don’t do something with them.” They: “What a waste of art supplies.”
Me: “Yeah, I guess there is no point.”
Unless one remains aware of how insidious the influence that “they” have, it can become overwhelming, stealing our delight in our own flowering. They can tell you how to spend your money, how to decorate your house, what stuff you need, what stuff you don’t, how to dress and how to feel about everything in your life. They know what we should have in our pockets, in our houses and in our hearts. They will even let you know your value!
Could this also be the “they” Jesus was talking about when He said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”? Yep, that’s us. Timeless saying.
Jesus was approaching death to set us free. Free to bloom as God intended. This Lenten season let us think about why we still let the “they” keep us captive, keep us stumbling.
We know the Story. But maybe we still don’t get it. We have been freed by the love of the Cross. We are free to bloom as God wants. We are precious in God’s eyes.
He wants us to know who we are. God wants us to get out of the way of our own flowering. God wants the squirrel to be a squirrel, the eagle to be an eagle, Laurel to be Laurel, Davor to be Davor and Bishop Linda to be Bishop Linda. For where would we be without a blooming bishop?
God delights in my blooming. God delights in your blooming.
This Lenten season identify your stumbling blocks. Then let us deeply trust in the Easter Story, in the Cross, in Christ and in God. Be free of these stumbling blocks of the world and bloom.