Possum and Stump

You know those times when you stumble over your personal history? The same old thoughts and feelings come up over and over until either you push them away again or deal with them. Healing and spiritual maturity come from the latter. 

Enjoy this devotion from Rev. Deb Mechler about this very idea . . .  

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May 12, 2021
The Rev. Deb Mechler

“Possum and Stump.”

Sounds like a name for a bluegrass band. 

On my walk one morning I passed a fence that used to be obscured by volunteer bushes and trees. A couple of years ago the city decided to cut them all down. In a few cases they were too late. Some of the bushes had grown through the fence, and they couldn’t be removed without taking the whole fence down.

As usual, I see a metaphor.

There are parts of ourselves we would like to be rid of–old habits, memories, even a relationship or two. But they become part of us. Even if we manage to kill them, their effects remain. Life goes smoothly until KA-THUMP! YEOWWW! You stub your toe on that old stump.

In contemplative spirituality, we find that those old stumps are not to be ignored, but acknowledged. The least we can do is remember they are there so we can skirt around them. But eventually we can even come to appreciate them and learn from them. 

We can ask questions like: “What did that part of my life teach me about myself? What are its gifts now that I look back on it? What does the sadness about that tell me right now? How can this actually be of use today?” 

I had been having trouble sleeping for a few weeks. I finally decided to face the insomnia and ask it what it was trying to tell me. 

After exploring my inner landscape for a while, I found that old stump that has dogged me off and on for years: the search for significance. When I thought about the feelings I have when I should be drifting off to sleep, they are panicky and anxious. The specter of fading away unnoticed came into the light. Of dying without having made an impact or even being remembered. 

The fear of insignificance–that old ghosty, jittery critter. He usually hangs out at night. I think he knows if I get a good look at him in the daylight, he’ll get his walking papers.

He likes to show up when I’m anxious about other things, like a new job (check) or a loss (daughter getting married and the change in our relationship). Funny how anxieties in one area get the whole gang riled up.

So. I stopped to ponder the stump with a fence in it, or a fence with a stump in it, depending on how you look at it. Something moved. A ghostly possum lumbered by. 

Never would have seen the possum if I didn’t stop to ponder the stump. Funny how a dead tree can remind me what’s going on inside myself, and what bears another look.  

Rev. Deb Mechler, Certified Spiritual Director

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