Standing by his butterfly bush, my new friend Pat and I were talking about church and family, living and learning. He remarked, “If you aren’t deadheading, you’re missing blooms.”
I smiled and nodded, a little mystified. The comment didn’t seem to fit our conversation. But Pat is Irish and a musician, so I naturally assumed he was imparting deep meaning upon my humble, seeking mind. “Yes, true,” I agreed, raising a thoughtful eyebrow, hoping to hide the fact that I was grasping for the truth veiled in his simple words.
I’m not sure how many minutes passed before I realized he was just talking about nipping off the dead blooms from his butterfly bush so the younger buds would develop more quickly. In addition to being Irish and a musician, Pat is a gardener, and while we visited his hands were busy neatening up the shrub and preparing it to bloom more fully. Since it was a butterfly bush, he was preparing it to attract more butterflies, as well.
The deep truth was there, though. My brain looks for allegory and message in everything, because I believe God speaks to us through the stories of life now just as Jesus did when He walked among us. In Pat’s little self-explanatory sentence I heard echoes of a vinedresser’s shears trimming fruitless branches, whispers of waiting brides keeping oil in their lamps, and footsteps of a discouraged young ruler who could not let go. God is in the details if only we’ll listen.
Deadheading. Getting rid of what’s no longer necessary, so that what is beautiful may come into being. If we aren’t deadheading, we’re missing blooms. If we aren’t releasing anger and jealousy and disappointment and fear, those old, deadly habits will hang around until they kill us. Hands that are gripping hateful memories or vengeful thoughts cannot open in praise and they can neither give nor receive. We have to deadhead. We must cut off the spent, the used-up, the useless. We must learn to recognize what things are out of our control – and some of those things are controlling us, with our permission – and we must release our hold on them so that they will have no hold on us. Then we can be free to grow, to become, to expand our territories and walk in joy.
So here’s a challenge: Have you heard a story within the story of your day? Have you listened? Listen now. And if you can’t hear, consider letting go of whatever you’re holding over your ears. You might be surprised by how much better you can see.