I hurried across the campus to my first class. My mind raced ahead to assignments that needed to be wrapped up before Friday, followed by remembering the staff meeting at the end of the day, and that I had a unit test for my college class due before Sunday. To add to my stress, I needed to finish edits on my manuscript so it could be sent back to my editor in the next week.
I was already starting my day feeling pressured and grumpy. I needed to slow down and remind myself to be more “present in the moment” and began to look around at the barren trees and brown grass, pursuing some form of beauty in my brief two-minute walk to class.
That’s when it caught my eye.
A large tree, advanced in years, listed crookedly to the left. The bottom of the majestic trunk was completely surrounded by a rectangle of concrete. Large bulbous roots jutted from the small area of soil it had been allotted. Although I knew that the soil and tree roots burrowed far under the concrete beyond what my eye could see, the roots that were exposed behaved as if they were imprisoned in the limited dimensions of the concrete.
From the top of one of the thick, gnarled roots, thin fingers sprouted--no wider than a pencil--arching down into the soil below.
Weren’t the larger roots enough to sustain the tree? I wondered. What was the purpose of this emaciated extension of roots?
I hurried on to class. But possessing the curious nature that I do, I looked it up that afternoon. According to one website, exposed roots can mean that the tree is not getting enough oxygen. This could be due to the fact that the roots are smothered under compact soil or–in this case–a layer of concrete.
Considering my overbooked schedule and busy days, it’s no wonder that I’d been irritable and unhappy lately. I was packing layers of responsibilities and extra tasks on myself in my quest for validation and success.
In other words, I couldn’t breathe.
The roots of my spirit were being exposed and gnarled just like that tree, boxed into a pitiful space that left me in a state of constantly gasping for air. But what could I do about it? I was locked into responsibilities and current obligations that I needed to fulfill. Still, many of those tasks were short-term.
I would wrap up what I could, then step back and re-evaluate.
How many gratifying opportunities was I missing out on because I was buried in busyness? When was the last time I read a book? Made a homemade dessert? Spent unhurried time with God?
It’s time for a restoration of priorities. An unfolding of my roots, as I free them from the concrete prison of too many responsibilities and not enough air to breathe. My busyness validated me. Made me feel needed and useful. But it kept me from addressing the underlying issues of why I felt I needed validation from others in the first place when all I ever need to seek is God’s approval.
As one of my favorite quotes from Gretchen Rubin reminds me:
“Just because we’re busy, doesn’t mean we’re being productive.
Working is one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.”