A part of my daily routine is to read Richard Rohr’s Reflection that arrives in my inbox each morning. Some days it seems we are on totally different roads. Other days, we are both in a place where it feels like I can sit and listen, share and reflect and grow toward God. Today, was one of the “Aha!” days.
Today, he mentioned the admonition not to “eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” That particular section of Genesis has always bothered me a bit. Why not? Isn’t is good to know good from bad? As I have grown [older] I find it less bothersome. I find that judging what is good and who is evil is a task best left to one with better vision, understanding and compassion than I. Life is much more of a joy if I leave as much of that judgement up to God and simple attempt to love those around me, wherever, however I find them. Maybe not simple, but certainly less oppressing.
The older I get, the more I realize that we all are both saint and sinner, good and evil. I find that the mailman who is deemed to be difficult and disliked by one set of neighbors is the same person who carefully delivered the mail to the door for another neighbor who was weak from chemo as she fought cancer. I find a priest who has caused me great personal anguish and pain through his own anger to be the same person who so often led me to great insight and spiritual growth. I must learn not to just the parts, just try to love the person.
The “Aha!” moment — seeing this “forbidden fruit” as something that will truly cause us more pain and suffering… a sort of warning that doing this, eating of this fruit will not work out so well as we imagine. Of course, like most children, we don’t really believe it until we make the mistake for ourselves, and then it can be hard to let go of it. Trying to be judge and jury and getting trapped brings to mind a story of a friend’s son.
They were at a mall and he kept trying to poke his head through the railing to look down at the level below. His mom instructed him repeatedly “Don’t do that! Don’t put your head through there!” Of, course, as a eight year old boy is wont to do, he did it anyway. And his head got stuck. Panic ensued. Mall security and more was called in to extract him from the railing. The resulting extraction was unpleasant at best.
When he was finally freed, his Mom turned him to face her an asked “Why did you do that? Didn’t you hear me tell you not to? Didn’t you know you weren’t supposed to do that?”
His response: “Yes, you told me. But, I didn’t know it would HURT!”
Ah — how often have I had that same reaction?
Before this week, I’ve always interpreted this parable as referring to the good people and bad people. Somehow, looking at it now, I’m not so sure it’s about people at all. Or it doesn’t have to be, anyway.
This week has been one of those where I would like have crossed up the wheat and the weeds in my life. In the moment of being the object of someone’s fury, I would have pulled that sucker out as a weed for sure. Bad. Bad. Bad. But, at the same time I learned some very positive things about myself.
Or, someone close to me who had to confess to a mess he’d made and finally get brave enough to say “I need your help.” A young man trying to grow up and having to swallow his pride. How do you pull out the weeds without also dislodging the wheat?
And so, I’ll accept that the sun shines and the rain falls on both wheat and weeds. Until they mature, you really can’t tell enough to sort them correctly. Once things mature, the whole picture becomes more clear. What seemed to be a bitter weed has produced the most amazing kernel of wheat.
Some seasons are easy to enjoy – they are joyful segments of life. Others, not so much. And, the seasons don’t always line up one after the other. It seems they get all jumbled up. They overlap. Friends and family members might be experiencing different “seasons” all at the same time.
Now, just where did that jumble of thoughts come from? A few weeks ago, my niece got married. A season of joy and excitement. Family was be in town for the event. It was a lovely celebration at a lovely place. As I said – joy, happiness, looking forward.
At the same time, there were so many situations that felt like the wheels were falling off. One segment of the family didn’t make it because of illness and oral surgery. Another friend’s 15 year old son started intensive chemotherapy. Another friend had to go in for a transfusion – again. A season of distress, of uncertainty, of prayer.
All at the same time. Just as it always has been. In the midst of the pain and uncertainty there appears joy and hope. In the midst of joyful celebration, there will be upsets.
Sunday’s gospel included the parable of the farmer who sowed good seed. In the dark, the evil one sowed weeds. The farmer said not to go in and weed, because it was too difficult to be sure which were weeds and which plants were wheat until it came time for the harvest. Ah! That’s life everyday — wheat and weeds and it’s not always clear which is which.
It’s a relief, at least, that I don’t have to sort it out right now. It always happens that I would have gotten it wrong. How many times do I look back and realize that what seems so sad and wrong was the very thing that was required for later joy and hope? I’ll just have to leave the judgement about these things in the hands of the Lord.