Recently when I was on my annual retreat, during one of my reflective walks in our garden, I came across an old rose bush that some sisters had been trying to uproot.
As I stood looking at that rose bush, with some of its roots bare, I was very struck by how deep its roots went into the soil and that rose bush became the basis of my prayer for that day and even now after my retreat it is an image that I am still reflecting on.
So what was it that spoke to me so powerfully? When I stood looking at the roots of that rose bush, what came to mind was how deeply those roots went into the soil and how difficult it was going to be to pull them out. And I realised how deeply some of my habits, ways or responding and reacting to situations and people are deeply embedded in me just like the roots of that rose bush.
I want to believe that the image of that rose was a gift that God gave me during my retreat to help me become aware of the habits that have sunk their roots deep in me, roots that need to be uprooted.
This led me to reflect on the centres from which I respond or react from in situations and people, for example, I may come out of Mass or prayer and not even be aware of how I am responding or reacting to my sisters in community. I realised for myself that it seems I have two centres, there is that deep God-centre, the centre that I would like to respond or react from and then there is a surface centre from which I react or respond without awareness.
Let me explain this a bit more.
The deep God centre within me is the one I would like respond from, but to do this I need to have a moment of silence to go to that deep centre before reacting or responding to a situation or to someone. For example, if someone criticises me or says something to me that brings out impatience or a negative response, then that is the moment I need to take a moment of silence before answering and say to myself ‘Clare, which centre are you going to respond from?’
This is really hard because most times we want to justify ourselves, or we don’t want to appear like we are weak, or we don’t want other people to take advantage of us or we want to look good and so the list goes on.
It is in these instances that I have become aware that I respond from my surface centre because I want to defend myself or I want to look good etc, but I am realising that in order to respond from that deeper centre I need to let go of my need to defend myself, to look good or not to appear as a failure or weak.
This can seem like dying before dying because it goes against the grain, but it leads to freedom and I am understanding what Jesus meant when he said
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.
He is the perfect model for us because he always responded from a place of love. At one point in my retreat I became rather discouraged because it seemed rather a daunting journey of trying to live daily from that deep God centre within me. But then I realised that if I was setting myself up for perfection, I was setting myself up for disappointment and failure because for sure I will often get it wrong because it will take a life-time to uproot these deeply embedded roots of habits in me.
So for me it is not about perfection but about walking towards wholeness by accepting that I will need to begin again and again every single day, that I will get it wrong, but that’s okay. When I fall, I just need to get up and begin again to walk this journey towards wholeness and freedom. It is a lesson for me to learn to accept things as they are at every moment without judging them and most importantly without judging myself.
What I love about walking towards ‘wholeness’, is that I accept myself as I am at every given moment; I accept the good and not so good in me and see it all as a means to help me towards freedom and towards a life of love. That rose bush was finally pulled out, an image for me that these roots of habits in me won’t be uprooted in a day but every day I can be working at these roots, bit by bit, through awareness, practising the habit of letting go and the willingness to live from the deeper centre of love.