The Gardner and the Rose-a Parable
This story was shared with me today and I thought of all of you. I think, in some small way, we could all apply this story to our own lives. I don't know what we are expecteed to "gain" by being "amongst the chosen" to have cancer, but I know that I have personally learned far more in the past four years since my diagnosis than I learned in the first 50 years of my life before cancer.
The story is a bit lengthy, but I think it is worth it. I hope that you enjoy it as much I did when I heard it for the first time this morning:
THE GARDNER AND THE ROSE
Once there were four rose bushes in a garden. They spent all summer trying to get each branch to grow as long as possible, and produce as many fragrant blossoms as they could. They were very pleased with their efforts, and were sure that the gardener had noticed their success. So they were all shocked at the end of the summer when the gardener came to each of them with pruning shears and chopped away at their long, beautiful branches.
“Oh my God’ner!” the first one cried. “How could you do such a thing after I worked so long and hard to please you all summer? This is unfair! This is evil! I hate you! I will never do anything you want me to do again!”
“Oh dear, I’m so sorry!” cringed the second rose bush. “I don’t know what I did wrong, but I know I must have done something terribly evil to deserve this painful punishment. I promise, I will never do it again!”
The third rose bush was much more philosophical about the experience. “Unfair? Ha! Who said life is fair? Things just happen. Yesterday the gardener watered me, today he chops me to pieces. There is no rhyme or reason behind any of this. You think the gardener knows what he is doing? Shoot—maybe he is drunk, or maybe he takes his orders form someone else. The thing to do is accept your fate and move on?
The fourth rose bush felt the pain of the shears along with the others, but placed it in the context of an entire summer’s worth of care and nurturing. She knew that the gardener was not evil, nor was his goal punishment. His actions were neither random nor illogical. The question that she had all winter to consider was, “What does the gardener want me to do or learn in response to this painful experience?”
Months went by, and each rose bush developed a plan of action based on its perceptions of its experience.
In the spring, the first rose bush decided that if the gardener wanted flowers, then it would use its energy to grow roots instead. It explored the dark corners of the garden world, and fed on its compost and manure. But with only a handful of leaves above ground to absorb light and carbon dioxide, the bush soon began to wither and die. Anger and rebellion in the face of suffering did not ease the rose bush’s pain.
The second rose bush spent all winter trying to decide what it had done wrong the previous summer to deserve punishment. But the only thing it had done all summer was to grow and blossom. Okay, then, it would not do either of those things. But if a plant does not grow, and a flower does not blossom, then it might as well be dead. Seeing suffering as punishment—and trying to avoid it—did not make the second rose bush any happier or healthier, it only left her paralyzed with inaction.
The third rose bush fared much better. He just did what he had done the year before—sending out a handful of long, scraggly branches with a blossom on the end. Maybe they would get chopped off again, maybe not. It really didn’t matter much. Nothing mattered much. So when beetles and aphids began to munch on his leaves and petals, he didn’t put up much resistance. They just left that much less for the gardener to come chop off at the end of the summer.
The fourth rose bush looked at her experience from a different perspective. “Last summer I grew and blossomed. I know that there was nothing wrong with that. The gardener was pleased with me. I trust his judgment, and I trust his actions. So what is it that I am supposed to do differently this summer?” she thought to herself. “Well, what I was planning on doing was making each of my dozen branches grow another three feet. I wanted to expand on my strengths. But I can’t grow out of the end of a cut branch, so how will I grow?
For the first time, the rose bush took a really good look at herself. She was amazed to discover that all along on each of her truncated branches there were dozens of tiny nodes—each of which were capable of becoming a whole new branch.
Instead of growing a strong bush in twelve ways, she could literally branch out into hundreds of new directions! What a gift the gardener had given her—but only because she was willing to ask the question, “What can I learn from this experience?”
If you want to read further, check out the other post entitled: PART TWO
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