I’ve discovered something about myself. Something I’m not too proud of. Something that needs to change.
When people approach me, I have a tendency to give advice on what to do to fix their problems. Truly I mean well. I genuinely care and would even take their burdens from them at times if I could. But this weekend I discovered something. Sometimes people don’t need advice – no matter how applicable or well-meaning it might be. Sometimes people just need me to be quiet and listen.
This revelation came to me while at a women’s retreat. We had this wonderful speaker, Susan Miller, who came and talked to us about being Purposely Rooted. She presented excellent advice on how to tend our garden and allow the love of the Master Gardener to nurture our lives.
Then we went to our small group time. A precious woman whom I had never met before posed this question: Have you ever been so broken that you were unable to tend to your garden? Every woman in our group emphatically nodded, whispered or shouted, “Yes!”. My response was, “More than once”. Another woman began to tear up and another’s face cast downward. Our circle grew quiet.
A thought came to me: Why is it when I face a broken woman I always feel the need to tell her what to do? Maybe in that moment, I just need to let her be. Could it be that she is so broken that all she can do is remind herself to breathe, let alone thrive?
I pictured a garden of giant sunflowers. Often those sunflowers grow up straight and tall and then their weight topples them over. The only way they can survive is by resting themselves on the sunflower next to them. If the neighboring sunflower cannot support their weight, it will fall over. Buried beneath all of the other sunflowers, it will fail to receive enough sunlight and it will die.
How many sunflowers have I pushed off of my shoulders with my fine sounding advice insisting that they take my wisdom and stand on their own? Probably more than I’d like to admit.
We all go through times when our garden is dry. When it is choked by weeds. When the Master’s touch feels like a distant memory and we are scorched and withering. We have times when we need others to share their strength and refreshment. We need them to stand strong next to us. We need to droop over and rest on them. We don’t need gardening tips. We don’t need a to do list. We just need to be.
And to know we’re not alone.
And to experience the touch of the Master Gardener through them.
A hug. A bouquet of flowers on our doorstep. A meal brought to our kitchen table. A cup of coffee and a listening heart.
I shared these thoughts with my circle of new friends. They agreed. It is easy to give advice. But it’s love to bear the weight of the burden and allow a withering sunflower to rest on our shoulder until she is ready to bloom again.