Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pruning

I spent several hours ~ long, hot, humid, sweaty hours ~ with my little juniper bush yesterday. Well, it wasn't little; the tallest branch was taller than me, and its width was wider than I am tall. My plan of attack was to begin pruning away the infested areas, removing as many of the bagworms as I physically could, and then spray what remained with this specific insecticide recommended by Dr. Google himself (yes... Dr. Google has PhD in everything).

My tool was this $10 set of trimming shears I bought at Sears nearly 10 years ago. I've used them to trim the shrubs in front of both the homes we've lived in since we were married. They are now rusted, dull, and a little ill suited for mature shrubs. But it's all I had, so I set out to work. I'm not a girl who enjoys bugs, worms, or critters of any kind, so the first hour involved me clipping and then dodging what fell to the ground. I finally decided to get out my step stool for the taller branches to avoid any of the creepy crawlers falling on me. As I clipped away, I realized the problem was much deeper than I thought.

My mind was spinning. The English major in me began picking apart the symbolism of the stupid bagworms and the contents of my soul.

From what Dr. Google told me about the bagworm, they feed off evergreen plants and trees, and they specifically like those with fine needles on them as they are easier to digest. In other words, they prey on the weaker evergreens. The bagworm lives in, essentially, a little bag (hence the name... how clever) or cocoon, and sticks his (or her ~ gotta be fair) head out to feed, laying eggs in the bag to hatch the following year. Dr. Google informed me that each bag could incubate 200 - 300 eggs. That's why you are encouraged to remove each visible bag and then spray; it's the only effective way to attack the problem.

When I say there were hundreds of these little bags all over my juniper bush, it's no exaggeration. There may have been well over a thousand. And what I found was that they had eaten from the inside out... toward the base of the trunk was clear of all needles. They had eaten it clean, and then moved outward. Right there I stood, rusted clippers in hand, feeling like I had worms crawling all over me, sweat pouring from every pore in my body, and the brick landed on top of my head.

This is exactly what Satan does to you, Tamara. This is your guilt, your shame, that has robbed you of the closeness you long to feel to Jesus, the joy that you deserve. Get rid of it. Just get rid of it.

In that moment, I got angry. I was mad at the stupid worms that had eaten up my lush, green shrub. I was mad at Satan for what he had eaten up in my life all those years. And I began to work, not out of fear, but out of purpose. The worms would have no more dinner at my expense.

In chapter five of the book I am reading, Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner, the author, Wendy Blight, talks about getting off your mat, a reference to one of Jesus' many healings in the New Testament. She shares that her "mat" was fear. My "mat" (or the thing that has kept me paralyzed) is guilt and shame. I kept what happened to me, what changed my soul forever, a secret from those who love me most because I was ashamed of my actions and felt that I was to blame for someone else's poor decision. What a way to live... for years... processing a grave injustice and punishing myself for it at the same time.

So... here's the deal. When I was 19 years old, I was raped by someone I trusted. I was drunk, and that's just what he wanted me to be. I was no professional drinker at the time as I had only had my first drink a couple of months before that. He completely took advantage of me, manipulated me, and wouldn't stop when I asked him. I was so ashamed, and so I went home, went to bed, and acted like it never happened. For years. Years. Here's the thing about covering something up... it eats its way to the surface, just like those damned bagworms.

I'll share a passage from Isaiah that meant so much to me for so many reasons when I first read it a year ago. For those of you who know me personally, you will understand. It's lengthy, but so fitting, and I feel the need to type it all out for myself, so allow me to be selfish for a minute.

"Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband - the LORD Almighty is his name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit - a wife who married young, only to be rejected," says your God. "For a brief moment, I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you," says the LORD you Redeemer.

He calls us all back from the shame of our youth. He calls us all close to Him, the Redeemer of our soul. In Him, there is no shame. There is compassion and everlasting kindness. No Satan or bagworms allowed.

Away with the guilt and shame.

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