It had always been there—the big burning bush at the front of my yard. For the first years that I lived in my house, it was something I enjoyed. It was a nice buffer between the yard and the cars driving past on the street in front. And it was tall and full, with broad green leaves that turned a brilliant red in the fall. It gave my yard character, I thought. It added something interesting to a landscape that would otherwise be bare. However, as the years passed, I started to notice some unpleasant changes. As it grew taller, renegade branches began to shoot out from the sides in every direction. A section of the bush seemed to actually be dying, as the branches were grey and no new leaves would grow. And most disturbing, another tree altogether seemed to be growing straight up out of the middle of it! It was getting ugly. I tried to “fix” it—chopping off some of the dead parts and trying to trim the craziness back. But it was beyond my control. And I certainly couldn’t reach that audacious tree-thing growing up out of the middle. So I left it alone. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad. After all, it wasn’t any worse than it had been the year before…sort of. Ignoring the problem did work—for awhile. But it was actually getting worse, and turning into an eyesore. Pretty soon, it was going to be more than just something that bothered me—it was going to attract the notice of others. I came to the decision that something had to be done. I needed to remove it.
I had a lot of reasons in my own head for delaying this removal. It involved getting help and finding someone to take it out. It would surely be expensive. The yard might look worse without it. (Okay, I knew THAT wasn’t true…) It finally came to the point that the presence of the bush-tree in the front of my yard was worse than the actions it was going to require to remove it. So I made the call. YES! I felt great after actually “deciding”, and then excitedly waited for it to disappear. And waited. I came home every day for the next week expecting to find it gone. But it was still there. It was evidently not going to go away quietly. This meant I was going to have to take further action to guarantee its removal. I made some more phone calls. I had my yard marked for the buried utilities near the bush. I spoke twice more with the tree removal service and agreed on a new plan. But every time I left my driveway and came home again, it was still there. As I drove down my street, it was the first thing I looked for and my heart sank a little when I saw it was still there. It was getting more and more embarrassing, with the vibrant red leaves of the burning bush hanging from the part that was still alive, and the bright yellow leaves of the crazy tree shooting straight out of the top, looking like some kind of wild, hairy crown. It was a constant frustration.
Then today the moment came! The tree service workers arrived with all their equipment and made short work of chopping the bush-tree to bits. I was delighted to see them pull up into the driveway, but when the chainsaws started I actually thought “WAIT!” for a moment and wondered if I was really ready for it to be gone. After all, it wasn’t something that I could put back—this was final. The choice was made, though, and it didn’t take long for it all to be reduced to a pile of branches in the yard, which were then put through the chipper and finally hauled away. The yard was bare and where the bush-tree had stood was now a neat, smooth bare patch of dirt. It was true—my yard did look completely different without it. But this was a good difference! Although all the other parts of the yard remained the same, the overall look was completely different without that burning bush. And although I missed it (or the early, nicer version of it) a bit, I realized that the whole street looks a little bit nicer without it. It was a small change, in the scheme of things, with a big impact.
This happens in our lives as well. There may be a situation, or a relationship that started out as a beautiful, nice thing but over time got a little wild. Parts of it may have died off while the rest of it remained lovely, which was just enough to convince us to hold onto it and keep trying. We may try to fix it ourselves, and actually make a little progress, but sometimes it is going wrong in such a big way that we are in over our heads. And then something gnarly starts growing out of the top of it, and we know it has to go. This is hard, though! Just making the decision is painful—after all, it has always been there, and we think we can be patient and put up with the crazy parts. We spend a lot of time convincing ourselves that it is all right after all. But then there comes the point of no return, and we realize that it is affecting our happiness to an extent that it has to be uprooted and removed. In fact, it may become a problem that others start to notice—it becomes an eyesore. We know it is time to make a change. It feels GREAT to finally make the decsion, and we excitedly wait for the problem to just disappear—because we decided that it would. Unfortunately, it may take some additional hard work if it won’t go away quietly. So we take more action and ask others for help when we need it. We know there will be a cost. And when the help does arrive, there can again be that moment of panic—am I doing the right thing? If I put an end to this and take it out of my life, it can’t ever be put back again exactly as it was! But the wheels have been set into motion, and at last the situation becomes resolved. In the aftermath, there is an absence where that situation once was. But if we’ve done it well and acted in good faith, with a kind heart, then there is a smooth place where it used to be. The stress, anxiety, and worry gets replaced with quiet relief and a new outlook. Looking out from this place won’t ever be just the same as it was, but the new landscape can be delightful in a different way. There is a curious mixture of pain and peace. It is worth remembering the nice parts of what once was, and we can be grateful that we once had it in our lives. But then we move forward with a whole new perspective to enjoy. And hopefully the next time something starts growing in the wrong direction, we can nip it in the bud before it turns into a big wild bush-tree with something gnarly growing out of the top.