A story about a tree that drastically changed the way I see myself and that helped me put my blindness into perspective…
I was brought up in a family culture where, as children, we learned words from the Bible off by heart. There are some great verses, but one in particular was very disturbing for me. It’s in Psalm 139. A song written by King David, where he sings, “O Lord, You search me and you know me!” Then he goes on about everything the Creator knows about him, which is really securing and comforting for me, until the part; “You knit me together in my mother’s womb, I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Good grief! Did He know I had a genetic flaw in my ‘knitted’ flesh? How can a person with an inherited degenerative disease be ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made? Is God a liar? Why is this not my experience? How can a supposedly loving Creator ‘knit’ me with an ingrained flaw? It’s not like my parents had any control of that.
This was part of my identity struggle that I took years to put into words. I was scared of the answer in case I was deliberately created to have a factory flaw. At some pivotal stage of emotional turmoil, probably triggered by some small incident or frustration of not being able to see, I got the courage to ask the hard question to get to the bottom of this. I literally said, “God, if you are alive and real and loving and you made me, then how come I got this disease? Show me, teach me.”
About a week later I was doing some gardening. I find that there is nothing quite as soothing as hard, physical labour that works up a sweat, for a person who is fighting within themselves, namely, me. There was an area in our garden where nothing seemed to really grow well. It had full sun and got enough water and compost, so I was not sure why a special ‘birthday bush’ I had carefully planted there, had died! It was another symbol of a disappointment and an unexplained defect. We had previously planted a beautiful double-delight rose bush, specially transplanted from our previous home, there and it had also died. What was wrong with these plants? Why did they not grow for me? The ‘injustice’ seemed to connect with something in my own story. I was upset and so decided to rip everything out of that patch.
Once the dead roots of the little tree were hacked out, I energetically dug as deep as possible to get rid of this garden bed. I was arm length into the hole when I came across some builders’ rubble, and a penlight battery. It was rusted and leaky and had probably, inadvertently, been tossed out in a previous story of someone else’s life. I was so relieved to find the cause of the problem, it was not the plants that were defective , it was the soil.
Buoyed with hope, I carefully scooped out another bucket of soil around where the battery had been. We added natural fertiliser and new soil. We went out and bought a beautiful leopard tree and planted it in that place.
As I was working I had an ‘epiphany’ or, as Oprah would say, an ah-ha moment. There was never a problem with the plants we had put there, it was a problem with the soil. I am ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. There is nothing wrong with my spirit, the Jenny inside Jenny’s body. I am the plant and my body is just the soil, which happens to have 2 mutations in one gene. I am not my body, I am a spirit, with a soul in a body. What a relief! I found this revelation so profound, that it gave me a fresh foundation from which to look at my life,and my value as a human being.
This incident scrambled my belief system, as I thought The Creator was in control of everything on earth. Well, now I believe, The Creator is in charge, but not in control. What is the difference?
Have you ever been in charge of a project, and something goes wrong? Is it your fault? Is it helpful to blame? What action did you take to work with the situation?
Just because you are in charge, does not mean you are in control.
None of us are in control of ‘the soil’ in which we are planted. Our bodies, our skin colour, the families we are born into, are all part of the mystery of life. We did not choose our DNA, but we can choose how to respond to what we have been given. We may have been given an earthly ‘bad card’, but we can choose how to play it in a way that positively contributes to the next generation. As for the factory flaw, that was never in the mind of The Creator, it was a weakness in the soil, the genetic material from generations past – that part of us that returns to dust when we die.
It’s been hard for my parents, who have had to face the reality of passing on a mutation, even though they had no idea it was there. We all have genetic mutations and idiosyncrasies. Even a perfect human specimen is not more valuable than one who has come through illness or accident with a lasting impact. It is the sacred, human spirit, the part we call life, that carries value.