12/3/2016 3:27:26 PM
The Savanna of My Soul - PArt II
Taking a walk at the Abbey before Compline, I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings until I spotted a patch of grass that is already taller than I am. It will get close to eight feet tall before the summer is over. How can something so soft and slender grow so tall without falling over?
The first thing I noticed was that tall patch of grass. As I ponder its significance I note that it is growing on the side of the road at the base of a hill, partially in the ditch. The ground is soft and moist as the runoff from the hillside accumulates there.
KNOWLEDGE! My thoughts were a slow swirling cloud as I tried to detect what the grass might represent. Then the light……and understanding came. This tall patch of grass represents the knowledge I have gained in regard to trauma and abuse.
The grass can get as tall as it does because it is cylindrical, and has several shafts one inside the other which give it strength. Its location near the ditch means that it will have plenty of water for most of the summer. It also gets plenty of sunlight to help it reach its full growth.
The circle is a symbol for things that are eternal. Since everything I have learned is enriched by my relationship with the Lord and new understandings of how God works, this knowledge contains eternal truths about the ugly things that happen to us in this life, the suffering we experience because of it, and the fact that God knows about it, loves us anyway, and wants very much to help us heal and to become ‘whole’.
As I think about each blade of grass being a particular piece of knowledge, a few examples come to mind leaving me curious and hopefully expectant that the Lord will give me illumination of all when the time is right. I also have an understanding that this patch of grass represents a certain ‘body’ or area of knowledge….and as I look around I see other patches of grass similar to this one, as well as many other varieties. I am reminded that I need to keep my ‘soil’ soft and moist so that the knowledge the Lord provides can take root and grow.
Wow…….that’s a lot to glean from a patch of grass!
I understand right away that the ground cover is symbolic for grace – God’s action in my life, telling me over and over again that the abuse is not my fault. He assures me that I did nothing wrong and that I am not to blame. The impact of the abuse is softened as I learn that He was there weeping for me when it happened and consoling me after…..and hiding it from me for all these years until I was strong enough to face it.
Vetch is a vine with sweet flowers on it. It grows in thick patches that make a nice place to lay down…..if there are no bees around.
There is a ‘sweetness’ in my life now (despite months of darkness, anger, and inner turmoil), that I have not known before. It’s a ‘balm’ that heals and comforts, and is intertwined with all aspects of my life. It is a felt knowledge of God’s mercy and love; His gentle and tender compassionate care, and it does provide a cushion for me.
Another thing about ground cover is that it provides food, or nourishment, for animals. I was raised on a farm and the cows loved the vetch. We would pull it up by the armful and throw it into the pasture for them.
The roots of these smaller plants also keeps the dirt from being washed away when it rains.
This tells me that God’s grace is nourishing me by filling in, healing, and transforming the raw wounded places in my heart and soul that have been exposed since attending the Grief to Grace retreat last fall and learning what abuse in my life has done to me. He provides His sweetness and a sense of wellbeing that don’t go away! They are the roots that provide stability and fortitude, even in the midst of trials. And I am experiencing some pretty ugly things as I follow through on the need to share the facts of my abuse with my family.
The fact that it is turning red now is an indication that it does not like all the sun it is getting, and is dying out. This is a good thing for the Savanna because as this plant dies out, native plants will come back.
From a spiritual and psychological perspective this plant represents ‘COPING MECHANISMS’ I have created to help me ‘get by.’ Surrounded by fear and a need to adhere to strict rules of compliance in order to survive, I learned to ignore and/or swallow my emotions and to do whatever I could to please the people around me.
- Being a people pleaser or chameleon, even changing my beliefs or acting against them to make others happy.
- Denial and minimizing. “It’s not a big deal…..I’m still alive……other people have suffered far worse than this.”
- Run away and hide.
- Splitting off or dissociating.
- Continuous negative self-talk……don’t dream, don’t hope.
- Ignore the obvious and accept the improbable.
As I read about the last item on the list I was hurled back in time to the first few months of my conversion when God revealed something very special to me, and in my ignorance and naiveté, the devil was able to twist the revelation into something other than what it was. Because of my abuse I ignored the obvious and accepted the improbable; although not without a lot of internal warfare. It took two years for me to find someone who finally told me the truth (Thank you Father!), and at least two more before I could let go of something that had cost me so much to accept in the first place.
The devil used my abuse against me in my spiritual journey…..and God allowed it!!
This really hurt……..and it still does, but I know that God only allows evil so that He can bring a greater good from it, and I have hope that I will see the greater good that comes from this.
As I walked, I noticed this un-native plant was still growing in the shady areas around the Savanna. It reminds me that other people, some that I am close to, will have coping mechanisms of their own. I am already seeing the truth of this in denial, reactivity, and minimization.
Another beautiful thing that is happening on the Savanna is that the oak trees are leafing out. I am amazed at how twisted, gnarled, and bent some of the branches on these trees are.
The new leaves soften their appearance and fill in a lot of the empty space that gave the hillside such a barren look.
For me the ‘leafing out’ is a growth of VIRTUE, especially the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, fortitude. I see ‘courage’ intertwined very closely with these as time after time after time I encounter situations where I need to respond differently than I have in the past.
Such little things, like asking for what I need, cause flashbacks where I am flooded with old fear and emotion. It feels so real that it is hard to push through it. Yet each time I do, I am rewarded with the knowledge that the next time will be easier, and more importantly, I have taken another step in growing and leaving the abuse behind me. I know the Lord has to be present with me in all of this, and that it is His courage I receive, because the embarrassment alone, of not being able to do things most adults take for granted is excruciating, and having to explain it to someone else is pure torture.
The virtues have been there struggling to survive as the all-pervasive fear tried to choke them out. Now that the fear is gone, and has been replaced with trust and confidence in God, they are free to bloom and grow.
I cannot speak of the work of healing over these last several months without mentioning anger.
ANGER is represented by the thistles that are popping up all over the Savanna. Some I ran into unexpectedly, and others were noticed before I made contact with their prickly foliage.
The thistles, like the grass and ground cover are of different varieties. It is a good way to describe the anger I have been dealing with. Since I had kept it bottled up inside for so long, it took months for the initial release to begin subsiding. The intensity and suddenness of the waves of anger that I have had to accept, deal with, and then let go of, would have scared me badly if I hadn’t learned about our emotions in a book by Dr. Conrad Baars called “Healing and Feeling Your Emotions.” I am very grateful to have read this book as I was about to uncork the reservoir of anger that I have been afraid of for so long, because Dr. Baars explains that anger is a gift just like our other emotions. God gave us the emotion of anger to help protect us from danger and to strengthen us to stand up against evil. In my life anger was not used properly and it was hurtful; not knowing how to deal with my own anger caused me to bottle it up until it would explode, then the cycle would begin again.
Because it is there to help protect us, I see an aspect of anger also represented by the leafing out of the trees. Now that the fear is gone, the virtues and emotions are free to grow in the light as the natural balance returns to the Savanna.
I don’t know what the name of this flower is, but it was the only one of its kind I saw the day I took the photos, and this one turned out much nicer than I expected. There was a breeze blowing, it kept moving, and the images were blurry. If you look carefully you can just see a bee at about the 11 o’clock position. The sun was still out and I don’t know why this turned out so dark, but I like it and consider it a gift….a promise of what’s to come.
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