I am so happy to have Alyson Pryor’s guest post on my blog today. I first met Alyson while visiting my friend Nancy Pryor, Alyson’s mother-in-law. Nancy moved home to Heaven last fall, and Alyson and I have connected online and through Redbud Writers Guild since. Here she tells us what she has learned from weeds. Alyson is thoughtful, wise and so fun.
I read something interesting this week, so interesting, that I had to put the whole book down. It was from Emily P. Freeman’s newest book, The Next Right Thing. She said, “Desire often lives next door to grief in the soul. Access the grief and you wake up the longing as well.”
I read it, re-read it, underlined it, then put it down, unsure when I would be able to pick it up again. This idea sparked a dormant seed in my brain and I didn’t want other seeds of thought to come to life and crowd it out. It needed time to germinate.
I came to some weeds that brought my attention back to my body. I tugged at one, but it wouldn’t release. The small beginnings of an arugula plant lay tangled up with it. As I pulled at the weeds, the dirt around the arugula bulged with the effort. To pull up this weed was to uproot my arugula; they were in it together.
The imagery of potato sack races came to my mind, I remembered doing them at summer camp as a child. One person couldn’t win. Either both of you won or neither of you–for better or worse, you were in it together.
I thought of Jesus’ bizarre parable about an evil horticulturalist who sows weed seed among another farmer’s healthy wheat seeds. When it all sprouted, the farmer had to choose: uproot the weeds and risk doing the same to the young, vulnerable wheat, or follow the parable’s advice and let them grow simultaneously. The healthy and the unhealthy, the weed and the food, the evil and the good, all mixed up together and left to grow.
My mother-in-law died eight and a half months ago. I read Freeman’s quote the eve before our first Mother’s Day without her. The grief in my belly that often felt like a dormant seed curled in on itself, felt instead like an overgrown dandelion.
I would have liked nothing better than to rip it out. I often reminded the Lord of this. Yet despite all my efforts to uproot it myself, praying it to be uprooted, spraying it with pesticide, still it grew; it was allowed to grow alongside all the beautiful arugula in my life.
Visualizing grief potato-sacked in my soul with my longing, I suddenly felt afraid that it would be uprooted as well. My longing has served as a good companion in grief. It has made me wonder about my grief when I’m tempted to despise it. When pushed to my boundaries, I look around in curiosity instead of huddled in despair.
In the last several months, it has led me to mountaintops and to the edges of cold, foamy waters, my toes deep in the sand. It mined the parts of my insides that had unresolved feelings about my own cancer diagnosis. My curiosity linked my current pain with the past ones, giving needed voice to my survivor’s guilt. In many ways, her death woke up dormant parts of me, and although it was akin to a bucket of ice water to the face, it got the job done.
For the first time in my life, I’m beginning to find longing a trustworthy guide. If Jesus abides in me, and I believe He does, He is faithful to guide– through imagination, through dreaming, through desire, through pain, even grief. Waking up vibrant parts of ourselves might sometimes mean waking up darker parts as well. But if all of our parts are yielded to the work of God in us, then they are all lumped into the potato sack together. And only together can we cross the finish line.
What about you? Where are grief and longing intertwined in your life?
Alyson Pryor is a writer, speaker, Marriage and Family Therapist, and mother of 5. She most often covers topics at the intersection of faith and psychology including health, relationships, soul care, mentoring, and parenting. She is currently writing her first book about implementing the Spiritual Disciplines in the modern family setting. You can find her on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/alyson.pryor/) or at http://alysonpryor.com
From Judy: She is also an amazing singing, dancing comedian.