Cactus on a Hot Tin Roof

At the church I attended this last weekend, it was “Recovery Sunday” – a time to celebrate those in recovery from various addictions… and the God-given dynamics/programs bringing them to that healing.

Mike, a 12-Stepper (sober, now, for 28 years) told the story of a friend who wanted to get rid of a cactus garden in the backyard of a house he was renovating in Austin.  At the end of a hard day’s work, one last plant stood in the way of being done.  Having dug it up, he tried to throw it over his fence into the alley  – only to have it get stuck on the roof of his shed.  Creates quite an image, doesn’t it?

cactus on a hot tin roofYou can imagine the man’s surprise when, a few months later, the plant was alive and blooming – up there, on top of the shed!  Undetected, you see, was one small tendril of a root – a “stringer” between the plant and the ground.  Not much to the eye, but enough to give the plant the water and nutrition it needed.

For some addicts hearing that story, the conclusion is clear: just one tendril – one, little, insignificant root – is enough to give life to something we thought had been uprooted.  (It brings to mind the story of a shipwreck many years ago.  A sailor broke off the small tip of his knife blade while he was cleaning the ship’s compass.  Unaware that it had broken off, he didn’t remove it.  Undetected, it pulled the compass off its true reading resulting in a deviation in the ship’s course and the ultimate loss of the vessel and human lives.)  Little sins, little deviations, little roots can have big consequences.

Much as that “will preach,” as I have said through the years, there’s another more positive sermon to be found in the blooming cactus on top of the shed.  This, in fact, is the point Mike stressed in his discussion: that no matter how displaced we may feel from God, no matter how much we might stiff-arm the Divine, Grace has a way of holding on.  God and Life, the parable-metaphor seems to be declaring, refuse to die!

Our “recoveries” (and I say “our” because I agree with Gerald May that we are all addicts of one sort or another)…  Our “recoveries” demand both of these messages, it seems to me.  Awareness of the roots that give rise to “false selves” and their addictions, yes.  But, also, the trust that Grace abides (even if it feels like it’s by a strand) – giving essential nutrition to what Buechner calls our “original shimmering selves” within.

O Lord of Life,
Master Gardener,
Grant me, grant us
Graceful balance
in the paradox:
digging up, throwing out, letting go
AND being held, holding on…
until new life—Thy Life – blooms full,
heralded from the rooftop!


posted by Jim Reiter on September 25, 2018

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