What do these three plants have in common? They represent the different responses we have to the wounds or sins in our lives. A wound is like a two-sided coin: One side deals with the pain inflicted on us by someone else. The other side deals with our potential sinful response to that pain.
What do these three plants reveal about how we deal with our wounds? I found out last night at church. Our guest speaker, Fr. Michael, presented us with three plants and explained how they represent what occurs when we have a wound deep within our heart.
What happens with a wound that has built up extreme defenses for years? We subconsciously develop tiny, somewhat invisible prickly spines around our heart, like those of a cactus. A cactus can survive in the worst of circumstances! We, due to that pain, may prefer to protect ourselves, at least emotionally. We develop a prickly exterior resulting in anger and defiance. We don’t water it (with God’s Word). We simply leave it to survive on it’s own, without giving it the attention it needs (prayer and forgiveness). We ignore it. But it survives. It may even begin prickling others in a subconscious way.
When Fr. Michael held up the cactus plant, two prickly spines got stuck to his hand. What a perfect illustration proving how irritating our wounds can be if we set up prickly defense mechanisms to avoid working through them!
An Artificial House Plant
An artificial house plant may represent another defense mechanism. This plant looks great on the outside and can be set in a nice place in our home (heart) but it’s not real. From a distance it appears real, healthy and clean until we get close enough to touch it! Our lives can appear healthy on the outside as if we have no problems or wounds. We fake it. We protect the wound by acting as if all is well. That’s artificial.
That was the kind of wound I had until two weeks ago*. My heart looked great on the outside, but when that one wound was touched by whatever triggered the pain, I reacted. Up came my defenses and I would walk away appearing to not be affected. I carried on with life as if nothing had happened. Deep within my heart, however, the soil was not healthy at all. I wasn’t facing the pain with real solutions.
A Flourishing Philodendron
The third wound is represented by a healthy plant like this. With healing comes beauty but not the disappearance of the wound. Healing basically replaces the cactus or fake plant with an alive and thriving one like this beautiful philodendron. If it is well watered and maintained free of dust and particles, the flourishing plant will survive even when the wound remains.
As a kid one of my monthly chores was to clean and shine the leaves on our philodendrons in my home. They were beautiful! My mom’s cleaning concoction was a dilution of milk and mayonnaise. The milk had the protein needed to help the leaves flourish and the mayo created a brilliant shine. Even though tedious, I loved cleaning the leaves and removing the dust and particles that impeded their growth. I was very proud of my work, which took about an hour each month, but the end result was beauty and fulfillment for me! I took the time it needed and the result made me smile!
This beautiful “peace lily” as it’s also called, has invaded my heart and replaced the unhealthy wound with beauty and freedom! Jesus healed that deep wound in me two weeks ago! I already see the growth of a healthy heart flourishing in my life! I referred to this wound in a previous blog* and was one I lived with for over 30 years. I now expect this flowering philodendron to bloom, flourish and grow in beauty over the next 30 years!
God’s Healing Mercy
Fr. Michael went on to explain that wound healing comes from the “Mercy of God”. He described God’s mercy as a gift of time: God has all the time in the world, just as I did when I cleaned those leaves on the philodendron. He will heal our wounds as we allow Him into our lives to do that! Being willing to open our hearts to His Healing Touch is the secret. I’ve had my share of wallowing in the pain without reaching for healing. I would complain and pout, but failed to ask God for healing. I always asked for grace, but not for healing. I’m not sure why, but reaching out wasn’t at the top of the list.
Fr. Michael said that the reason we don’t receive healing is because we don’t reach out to others who can help us. For me that has changed. Sharing the depth of my heart has been quite easy since becoming Catholic. This is due to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession). What I used to consider an outrage I now see as peaceful surrender to a merciful God! This creates in me a desire for complete freedom in Christ and His forgiveness, no matter what the issue or wound is!
The evening ended with the corporate reading of a powerful prayer of surrender. We were then given an invitation to take time to share our wounds with any of the four priests available for confession. I was excited to share my wound with my pastor!
Why? Because it was no longer an open wound! I explained how Jesus had healed me of it when I “touched the hem of His garment” at the retreat I attended a couple of weeks ago. It was a joy to share that with him. He was the one who had previously counseled me concerning the varying degrees of pain I’d had from that wound. That’s what I love about confession: it’s not just reporting our sins and being told what to do for penance. It’s sharing our hearts with the confidence that we’ll receive counsel and healing from Jesus Christ through the anointing of the priest!**
God has blessed me through the Sacrament of Reconciliation in so many ways. He removed the most volatile wound of my life and I’m a flowering philodendron as a result! I water, nourish and clean out my heart daily to be keenly aware of other wounds that may creep into my life.
* See Blog “The Wound Healer” from 5/25/17
** See Blog “I Wish I Had Known” from 3/8/17