The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The second best time is now.
– Chinese Proverb
Steps 6 and 7 give me an opportunity to change. It is easy for me to say “Oh, that's just the way I am, and anyway, it's too late to do anything about it.” Or, in other words “I should have planted that tree 20 years ago.” But you know, my life is not over. And if I plant a new tree now, I will probably still be around in 20 years to enjoy it. If I start to make a change in the way I act, now, I will enjoy the benefits of that change for years to come.
Step 7, “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings”, is a tool I can use to begin that change. By saying, “I want to change, please help me,” I open the door to a happier future. I plant the seed. Of course, I will need to tend the seedling tree, watering, weeding, protecting it from damage as it grows. In my life, I need to water the seed of change by noticing when my character defect still surfaces, by practicing new behavior, and by being gentle with myself when the old behavior recurs (as it inevitably will.) I celebrate my progress, just as I celebrate the tree growing from a sprout, to a “whip”, to a sapling, to a small tree, and finally into a full grown tree with flowers and maybe fruit, which I can sit in the shade of or climb as I wish.
I may need to ask my Higher Power for the humility to be teachable, to learn a new way of being. That is the essence of Step 6, “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” In Step 6, I prepare the ground of my spirit for the seed of change, just as I might prepare soil for planting a tree. To plant a tree, I would dig a hole. I would mix various amendments such as peat, sand, compost, or fertilizer into the soil, so that the seed has a nourishing and well-drained environment to encourage its growth. Similarly, I might examine my shortcomings, asking myself these questions: What is the pain caused by this shortcoming? What is the payoff? Why did I develop this behavior? How does it continue to benefit me? Can I have the patience I need for real change? In this way, I prepare myself and become ready to accept the new life that is sure to grow in the time ahead.
A meditation for November 14, 2013.