Monday, April 26, 2010

Roots: A Secure Base

When you plant a seed, roots begin to develop in the ground. This happens before you see anything – stem, leaves, blossoms - above the ground. Why is this? What is the purpose of roots?

Roots basically do two things for plants. They absorb nutrients from the soil which are essential for plants to grow and develop. And, they provide an anchor for plants. We take for granted, for example, that giant oak trees have a mature root structure underneath them. Otherwise, we would be terrified to walk among them for fear they would fall over and land on us!

While they are growing and alive, plants need roots – whether they are little pansies or giant oak trees. Without roots and the nourishment and anchoring they provide, plants cannot live.

Just like plants, we also need roots to anchor and nourish us, not just physically but emotionally, especially emotionally. As a baby, each time our mother fed us when we were hungry or changed our diaper when it was wet or held us when we were frightened, a new “root hair” was formed. It took time but we began to feel secure (anchored) because she responded to our needs. We learned that we could count on her. And with this security we were able to grow and develop, to explore, to try new things. As our root system continued to develop, we found that we could go a little longer without checking in with her, not because we didn’t need her but because we knew she would be there when we did need her. We felt secure, anchored.

As we grew into adults, we found that we still needed this kind of security, this root structure to anchor us (although we may have bought into some philosophies that would have us believe we didn’t need anyone. That makes about as much sense as a giant oak tree not needing a healthy root structure to keep it anchored). But we learned that we could receive this base of nourishment and anchoring from other sources – from God as we saw how He was there for us and answered our prayers - and from very special others in our lives that we learned we could count on and we could rely on when we needed them. Eventually we chose one special person to join our lives with. We got married and found that we were able to nourish and anchor (be roots for) each other.

And our roots continue to develop in marriage. Each time we gaze at each other lovingly or speak fond words to each other or go out of our way to get that special gift or just do the dishes because we know it means a lot to the other, we are developing another “root hair”. And as we continue to do this, one act, one word, one kind gesture at a time, we, like the giant oak tree, will develop a healthy, secure root structure that will keep us anchored and nourished.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Deeper Pruning

Some mistakes are annoying but we learn from them and usually end up laughing about them later on. Other mistakes, however, are hurtful to those we love and to our relationships. These hurtful mistakes may be unintentional but they cause emotional pain. They make us question whether we are valued by our loved one or whether we can count on him or her to be there for us when we need them. They are not corrected with a friendly smile but rather with tears or sometimes, anger. And sometimes they are not even corrected because the hurt is so painful. These kinds of mistakes must be addressed and appropriately responded to in order for the relationship to heal.

The first step in addressing these mistakes is to allow yourself to feel the pain, including the pain that is underneath the anger. It is much easier to feel angry but anger is always divisive. Anger does exactly what we don’t want. It causes us to feel more alienated and alone. When we are willing to feel the real pain, the next step is to recognize that this pain must be shared to begin the healing process. And that takes a lot of courage.

Unfortunately, sometimes when the real hurt is shared, the response from the loved one is simply that it was unintentional or “I didn’t mean to” with the attitude of “so let’s just move on”. The problem is that the hurt partner has an emotional injury. They can’t just move on, anymore than someone who has a broken leg can “just move on.” The cause of the broken leg may have been unintentional (or accidental) but it still hurts and it still needs to be healed and that takes time and appropriate attention.

The first step in responding to your loved one when you have made a hurtful mistake is to acknowledge that you have caused pain, even though it may not have been intentional. Show your loved one that you care about their pain, just as you would if you had unintentionally caused a physical injury. Be with them and feel with them and certainly express remorse for what happened (again, whether or not it was intentional). This is how the healing process begins. You are now answering those questions positively which were left unanswered before: “Do you value me? Can I count on you to be there for me when I need you?” "Yes. Yes".