When I was growing up in Phoenix, every Good Friday during Lent between noon and 3 PM, my mom would turn off the television or any music we had playing so we could spend some quiet time in prayer. We couldn’t play, or swim, or basically have any kind of kid fun during those hours. Me and my siblings always complained, of course. “We’re bored,” we would say. “What are we supposed to do?”
“Think about Jesus hanging on the cross,” she would reply matter of factly. “And go outside and pull weeds. Or rake the figs.”
The moaning would ensue but inevitably we would trudge out into the scorching Phoenix sun to think about Jesus and his suffering and to start doing some suffering of our own.
We had this huge fig tree in one corner of our large backyard that produced and dropped waaaay too many figs. I would alternate between pulling weeds and raking figs. I could only take so much of the fig raking. There is something highly disturbing about raking hot shriveled figs oozing their figgy innards. We had plenty of weeds to pull and I would have to pull some to relieve myself from the dreaded figs. But wow, for a 12-year-old, pulling weeds is pure torture. During the pulling and the raking and the watching of the rake spires get sticky with figgy innards, I would think, “Boy, I simply must be earning some serious points with God. ”
The suffering I endured raking figs and pulling weeds ranked right up there with being crucified.
I was certain of it.
The last few months of my life, I feel, I’ve been hanging in the balance. Suspended somewhere between the panic of stillness and the eerie calm of busy days whipping by. The stress and the stream of endless thoughts rise within me approaching a rapid boil and yet I float through each day and I remember smiling and laughing and breathing.
I have made a choice, for now, to wrap my arms around the opportunities that seem to be swirling around me. Throwing caution to the wind and letting faith float me forward. Having no idea where I am truly headed and wondering how I am managing to not crumble under the weight of these possibilities. I am rooted firmly in the ground acknowledging the profound responsibility that dictates so much of what I do now and yet I am dreaming like almost never before.
And then a moment comes, unexpectedly. A free moment. Even though logically I realize I have no free moments. And the list filled with dreams and responsibilities appears before me beckoning me to step closer and grab a hold. There is no time to waste, it tells me. The free moment you thought you had is already gone. Don’t be fooled.
But maybe because I’m 42 years old and I’ve lived a lot of life, I have been able to tell that list to eff off. I have been able to turn my back on the dreams and the responsibilities and to walk into the free moment and live it.
And maybe because I’m 42 years old, sometimes I can imagine no better thing to be doing with my free moment than pulling weeds.
And with the other free moments that appear before my eyes, I’m planning on getting back into my writing groove.