Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Weeding Myself

"One of the best exercises of meekness we can perform is that whose subject is ourselves, in never fretting against ourselves and our imperfections."- Introduction to the Devout Life, St. Francis De Sales

When I need to escape from something or someone, I go out into the garden and weed. Despite the fact that I am in there often, there is always plenty of pulling up and raking to do. Some weeds I leave, because I like them. Most I remove.

I'm hard on my garden when it does not cooperate with me, frowning when the fence and extra wire doesn't keep out animals who nibble the vegetables, scowling when a vine doesn't grow on a trellis like it is supposed to, snipping back the herbs that are growing unruly. It seems I am most hard on whatever, or whomever, I believe reflects myself. Poor them!

St. Francis De Sales suggests that a "gloomy" attitude toward ourselves and fretting over the details of daily tasks is a sign of pride, because only God is perfect. He says I must not dwell on the "should haves" and be quick to forgive myself. Once I heard someone say, "we must stop shoulding on ourselves and others." This idea makes me laugh because my brain is so middle school, but it's true. If I make a mistake I just need to mentally move on in the right direction again, and not dwell on how I could have handled things better. I've addressed this idea before, and I continue on it because I need to work on being meek towards myself. What does it mean, to be meek towards one's self?

"When your heart falls, raise it up gently; humbling yourself greatly before God, and acknowledging your misery, but without being surprised at your fall; for it is no wonder that infirmity should be infirm, or weakness weak, or misery wretched. Detest, nevertheless, with all your power the offence God has received from you, and return to the way of virtue which you had forsaken with great courage and confidence in his mercy." (Intro. to The Devout Life, 117)

Gardening should be enjoyed. Life should be enjoyed. Honestly, I am tired of fretting. How do I stop fussing over the details and getting consumed by feelings of being overwhelmed by the day to day work? How do I approach my work with joy?

St. Francis suggests that I stop being so hard on myself, because being meek toward ourselves transfers over to being meek toward others. He goes on to write that I should reject feelings of anxiety or eagerness, and instead adopt diligence.

1. Earnest and persistent application to an undertaking; steady effort; assiduity.
2. Attentive care; heedfulness.

Steady effort brings forth growth and beauty in gardening and life. Gardening is good for me because it forces me to wait. With each small clean-up, I know I am cultivating the beauty and health of my project. I must approach the mundane tasks of my life with the same persistence and attitude. I guess along with "joy" in the everyday, comes a spoonful of foresight.

There is a story in the New Testament about Jesus yelling at his friend Martha to stop cleaning and come sit down. I don't think he meant that she should keep a dirty house. St. Francis De Sales writes that Jesus was rebuking her for the way she went about her work, with troubled eagerness and haste. Her mind was all jumbled with thoughts of the petty details. St. Francis writes:

"Take your affairs in hand quietly, and try to do them in order, one after another; for if you want to do them all at once, or in disorder, you will make efforts that are so overcharged and depress your spirit, that it will probably lie down under the burden without effecting anything." (Intro. to The Devout Life, 118)

As I read this passage, I begin to think that this saint, and Jesus for that matter, disagree with the whole idea of multitasking. In our society, women especially pride themselves on being able to juggle many tasks at once. Personally, I've always beat myself up internally for falling short in this area. I know that when I attempt to do something, if I am not entirely focused on the task at hand I mess up.

"Look more to God than your everyday affairs," St. Francis writes, and perhaps that is what Martha should have done when God was sitting at her kitchen table. "When tasks are of such importance as to require your whole attention to do them properly, you should look to God from time to time, like mariners, who, arriving at the port to which they are bound, look more towards heaven than down on the sea on which they sail; thus God will work with you, in you, and for you, and your labor shall be followed by consolation." (Intro. to the Devout Life, 119)

Be easy on myself when I do not follow Christ in actions and words, because I am imperfect. Treat myself with meekness, so I may also treat others without anger. Go about my daily tasks with slow and steady hands, practicing diligence, not eagerness or worry. What needs to get done will get done more thoroughly that way. The key word here is slow.

St. Francis sure is a good shrink, and a good gardener, I bet. So why do we stick that other St. Francis of Assisi in the garden? I'll let you readers answer that.


Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

This is very insightful. Maybe I should read that book too. And I never look that good when I am out in my garden!

Loren Christie said...

Hi Elizabeth. Wow, I almost didn't post this picture because I thought I looked grumpy and frumpy. Again, being hard on myself.

Loren Christie said...

Introduction to the Devout Life was written in the 1600's so it is really dense reading. I can only take it in pieces. Yes, it is totally worth reading. :)

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

Maybe when I'm done reading The Catechism of the Catholic Church - I'm on page 80 out of 800.

Loren Christie said...

Wow. I treat that book like a dictionary. I've never read the whole catechism from front to back.

Milk Man said...

Great Photo

Anonymous said...


You're a wonderful spiritual writer in your own right. And -- I would assume from your picture, a young woman. You must have suffered to glean that wisdom. As for weeds, Jesus speaking of the world rather than the soul said, "Let the weeds stay until harvest time lest you root out the wheat along with them. Your take on DeSales is wonderful.

Enough for today.. I've got to get to worl.

fr. bob of ft. lauderdale

Loren Christie said...

Thanks Fr. Bob!

jenX said...

You really tied it all together at the end for me, Loren. I lvoed this line: "Treat myself with meekness, so I may also treat others without anger." I'm a Martha. I always have been, and I've always been exasperated with the Marys of the world, even when I wished i was more like them.

Dear Internet Traveler,

Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.


Loren Christie

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