What do you think when you see a house that looks like this? I drive or walk by this house almost daily, but today is the first time I noticed it. That is not too surprising since the house itself is almost totally concealed by steroid-sized shrubs. However, as I walked first thing this morning, that house cloaked in deep, thick, almost impenetrable bushes entered my imagination and my heart.
First, I wondered about the inhabitants of that house. Is this a rental house and a case of an absentee landlord who has ignored the landscaping? Or do recluses live there who have intentionally created a moat of green to keep out any invaders? Do the people who live there only enter the house from the back door and never see how overgrown and oppressive their face to the world has become? Is this a case of old age, lack of money and ability, and a too-large home to manage anymore? What do the neighbors on either side of the house and across the street think? I wonder if this is the house on the block where sidewalks are never shoveled in the winter time. Perhaps no one lives there and the house is empty and lonely.
This house is not the only one in the neighborhood that could use major loving-care. Every neighborhood has homes that for one reason or another are not well-tended or cared for. In some cases the reason is deliberate--the person simply does not care or have pride in how things look. In other cases what started as neat and orderly with gardens and landscaping pleasing to the eye have gotten out of hand. My husband, the head gardener, often points out perennial gardens that are now overbearing, overblown, and in need of ongoing attention, as every garden does to some degree. Of course, neglect can also be the result of lack of money or physical abilities or a different aesthetic from what seems acceptable to most people. Whatever the reason, there is a story attached to each of these unpruned homes.
As I continued my walk, I wondered about this situation and what was being protected behind the thick wall of green. Is there a need to hide from the rest of the world? What fears are represented here? How could anyone feel welcomed approaching this fortress and is that an indication of the inhabitant's need to retreat not only from the external world, but also from his or her own self-awareness? What is being defended or concealed here? I don't think about possessions necessarily, but what emotions and vulnerabilities are secreted here? How is self-growth and self-awareness limited in such an environment, for not only is it daunting to enter, but it becomes hard to get out the front door as well.
Here's the challenge I encountered on this walk, knowing what opportunities for metaphor houses and gardens offer: What have I hidden deep within myself? What am I protecting? What do I prevent from discovering the light? In what ways have I built a fortress, defending myself from unknown invasions? Where do I need to prune and weed and transplant and dig? What deep, well-fortified issues prevent me from being my true self, my whole self?
In what ways do I need to tend my own home? And if not now, when?
Fortunately, there is lots of help available for clearing the barriers, including meeting with a spiritual director, spending time in contemplation and meditation or developing other spiritual practices that open one to deeper self-awareness. My daily walks often move me to greater clarity, especially when I then take time to sit and breathe and allow what I have seen to become part of my interior landscape. With a clearer landscape comes an open and more compassionate heart.
Currently, I am reading The Rebirthing of God, Christianity's Struggle for New Beginnings http://heartbeatjourney.org/2014/04/15/the-rebirthing-of-god-2/
by John Philip Newell, whom I heard speak recently at Wisdom Ways, Center for Spirituality. http://wisdomwayscenter.org I offer his words for your reflection.
What does it mean that we are made of God rather than
simply by God? In part it means that the wisdom of God
is deep within us, deeper than the ignorance of what we
have done. It is to say that the creativity of God is deep
within us, deeper than any barrenness in our lives or
relationships, deeper than any endings in our families
or our world. Within us--as a sheer gift of God--is the
capacity to bring forth what has never been before,
including what has never been imagined before. Above
all else, as Julian of Norwich says, the love-longings
of God are at the heart of our being. We and all things
have come forth from the One. Deep within us are holy,
natural longings for oneness, primal sacred drives for
union. We may live in tragic exile from these longings,
or we may have spent a whole lifetime not knowing how
to truly satisfy them, but they are there at the heart of
our being, waiting to be born afresh. p. x
I invite you to walk outside your house and have a good look. Is there something that has been neglected? Can you see what others see? Is it time to prune and bring more light into your heart? I would love to know.