I did one of my most favorite of least favorite things yesterday. I dug up cactuses. I guess the proper plural term would be cacti. At least that’s how my boys like to refer to them. We did a bit of spring cleaning in the yard. But really, it’s an ongoing process of clearing out and attempting to landscape after years of neglect.
I say least favorite because digging up cactus falls in the manual labor/heavy yard work category. And I really hate cactus. Just when you let your guard down, one of those spiny little suckers gets you good. I grew up in the Southeast. I suppose moms in the South regard poison ivy similarly to the way moms in the Southwest regard cactus. They hurt my children. About a week ago, my two-year-old complained for days about his knee hurting, until I finally realized he had a tiny cactus poke sticking out of it – mom of the year for not catching that one faster. And the menacing succulents keep our kiddos from wanting to explore and play in their yard. Therefore, with the kid’s best interest in mind, I have taken on a ‘no cactus left behind’ policy…no matter how much I dislike the job of removing them. On the other hand, I say most favorite because, although it is a potentially painful process, digging up cactus is extremely rewarding. I have removed a major burden and stress, and the newly cleared area of our yard is inviting and safe.
So, as I was digging up six large trashcans full of these nasty guys, I couldn’t help but think how I could compare the cactus in our backyard to metaphorical ‘cactus’ in my heart and soul. Here’s what I knew: There are more cactus than I would have ever guessed in our yard. Some are big and clearly stand out. Some of the cacti are smaller, harder to see. And honestly, those low-lying ones hurt the worse…ask the dog…or the two-year-old. But they all hurt. And I think most of them are pretty ugly. As I mentioned, sometimes the removal process is pretty painful, but the end result of removing them is oh-so-rewarding.
Here’s what I learned when I Googled ‘cactus’ and researched a bit more on the very trusty Wikipedia site . A few facts particularly stood out:
- Most cacti live in habitats subject to at least some drought…they can actually thrive when not being fed.
- When a bit of rare Santa Fe precipitation does fall from the sky, these guys absorb water quickly during a rain storm and then store it away in their stems…precious nourishment that could feed the beautiful trees in our yard.
- Cacti occur in a wide range of shapes and sizes.
- They have a shallow root system.
- Many cacti have short growing seasons and long dormancies. They pop up quickly and stick around until we do something about them.
Huh…more than a few similarities to the cactus in my life. So what are a few of my personal ‘cacti’? Well, I won’t bore you with a long list. But one of the bigger cactus that really stands out like those huge prickly pairs in our yard is my lack of patience with my kids. I loose it…often. I snap at them. I raise my voice way too often. And too often, I’m sad to admit, I respond to them in a way that indicates that they are reeeally get on my nerves. When my daughter hears that impatient and frustrated tone when I say, “whaaaat!?!”, she usually responds with “I love you, Mommy.” Well, that’s enough to have me repenting on the spot.
Then, there are those low-lying cactus. The ones that aren’t easy to spot but are so very sharp. How about envy…envy that someone else has more than me. This envy doesn’t present itself openly, even to me. But the fact that I want what they have is bad enough. Or even envy that someone else has a totally different lifestyle than me. Looks fun. Looks carefree. Looks simple. Yeah, right. The grass is always greener on the other side. Or how about when I insist on my own way? Hesitant to listen to my husband’s ideas, even when they are better than mine (they most always are). Or, maybe insisting on my own way with friends because I’m not willing to step out of my routine or comfort zone to fully love or serve them.
All of the cactuses (sorry I just don’t like the word cacti) in our lives are ugly. They are sharp. They hurt others. They hurt ourselves. And they keep us from the ability to fully explore our potential. So, as I clear out another small section of the yard, I also think about how I can clear out the ugly succulents from my heart. They thrive in drought. When I don’t feed myself spiritually. When I don’t get the rest I need. When I don’t open my heart to the people around me and drink them in. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they are called succulents. The cactuses in our hearts literally suck and store away the nourishment that the rest of our souls needs. And they even have the ability to lie dormant and present themselves at the worst of times.
But the good news is: the cactuses of our souls have a shallow root system, just like the real plant. They can be removed. It may take a little sweat. The process can be quite painful; we might get poked along the way. But not nearly painful as when we leave them planted in our hearts. For me, I have to lean on my faith when I encounter my ‘pokey’ flaws. I have to remember that love is patient. Love does not envy. Love does not insist on its own way. For me, I have to lean on the power of prayer to find this supernatural kind of love.
What are your cacti? The big ones? The low-lying ones? Can you feel them poking at your soul? I can. I invite you to join me in a bit of spring cleaning of the soul. It’s one of my most favorite of least favorite things to do. Although, I have a feeling that it’s on ongoing process…just like our yard work.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends… ~1 Corinthians 13:4-8