“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32”
I’m avoiding my desk. Paperwork – things to be filed, mail to be opened, bills to be paid and receipts to be itemized – are all stacked up in need of attention. In all honesty, the word “stacked” gives me way too much organizational credit. I’m not sure at this point that I can even find my desk beneath the mountain of clutter that has gathered over time. At least it keeps me from having to dust it. The truth is it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.
But first, I pour a cup of coffee and walk out to my garden. I love growing things and spending time with plants, whether vegetables or flowers, is great therapy for me. But when I walk out to my garden, I see weeds. I didn’t plant them; I don’t want them, but there they are sucking up precious resources and threatening to choke out my plants.
Neglect carries with it consequences.
And the same is true with matters of the heart. Over time clutter can accumulate when things like un-forgiveness, hurts and disappointments are ignored. Then, like weeds in a garden, even the smallest of resentments, if not dealt with can take root and grow out of control choking out the flowers of peace, love and joy we try so hard to cultivate. Over time, weeds become harder to uproot; clutter more difficult to clear away.
It’s a lesson that has taken time for me to learn as I tend to have a hard time letting go of things. I do not possess a quick temper, and I rarely blow up but I do tend to let things simmer. Much like the clutter on my desk or the weeds in my garden, I put off dealing with them until one day I come to realize that my joy has been choked out and bitterness has taken it’s place.
My father modeled for me, in a very tangible way, the right way to deal with such issues. Late in his career, he entered into an agreement with some close business associates to help develop and market a product. Always a man of his word, he had a handshake agreement with much younger men that he had known and mentored for most of their lives. The product became successful beyond everyone’s wildest expectations and the small percentage that was due my father quickly became very significant money – money with which his associates refused to part. So, my father parted ways with them and I never heard him say a cross word about it.
“Doesn’t it bother you?” I asked him.
“If they can live with it; I can live without it,” was all he would say about the matter.
That is until several years later, just weeks before he would succumb to the cancer which had ravaged his body. I was spending time with him on the farm when it just so happened that one of the very men who had cheated him stopped by for a visit. I watched as my father received him with grace and chatted with him like an old friend. After an hour or so, when the man got ready to leave, my father thanked him for coming by. When he was gone, I sat next to my father on the golf cart he putted around the farm on and I placed my arm around him.
“I’m proud of you, dad,” I said.
Dad, who was always uncomfortable with any show of emotion, stared straight ahead and shrugged his frail shoulders.
“Live and let live, son,” he said. “Some things just aren’t worth holding on to.”
We sat in silence for a while, those healing words like water washing over and around us, sweeping away years of clutter between father and son and dropping it into the deep, vast ocean of time. I like to think that the treasure my father gained during those moments, as the November sun set over a day well spent and a life well lived, was the kind of riches men seek for their entire lives and most never attain; the type of thing that no business deal could ever acquire and no amount of lost money could ever purchase. It certainly was for me. Dad was right, some things just aren’t worth holding on to.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to roll up my sleeves. I’ve got some clutter and weeds to take care of.