Lessons from the side of the road…

I saw it as I traveled home from Illinois yesterday. There it was, along the side the road. Ragweed. My arch nemesis. My kryptonite. My achilies heel. My…well, you get the idea. Ragweed is in full bloom…and I am in full misery.

Today, we are locked in battle. So far…ragweed is winning.

To add another headache to my ongoing health situation is like a bad joke. Cruel and unusual punishment.

I wondered if ragweed has a purpose in life, other than to seek me out and make me miserable. I wondered if some insect that is vital to our earth’s fragile existence depends on ragweed for it’s survival. I wondered…

I looked on the internet to find out about ragweed. You know the old saying, keep your friends close and your enemies closer? Well, I wanted to learn as much about ragweed as I could. To understand…why???

The scientific name of ragweed is sometimes claimed to be derived from the Ancient Greek term for the perfumed nourishment of the gods, ambrosia, which would be ironic, since ragweed is best known for one fact: its pollen produces severe and widespread allergies. However, the generic name is actually cognate with the name of the divine dish, both being derived from ambrotos, “immortal”. In the case of the plants, this aptly refers to their tenaciousness, which makes it hard to rid an area of them if they occur as invasive weeds.

The seeds are an important winter food for many bird species. Ragweed plants are used as food by the larvae of a number of butterflies and moths.

Ouch! Well, you know how I love butterflies. To know that ragweed is a necessity for them gives me reason to pause.

All of this reminds me, once again, of how limited my perspective can be. To look at ragweed and only see the misery (however short term) it inflicts on me is short sighted. God had a plan when he created it and yet, I question him every year when the pollen flies.

I think about my life and how many other areas I allow this type of thinking. How does this situation affect me? What will be my level of discomfort? Why is this happening to me?

In the story of the prodigal son, found in Luke 15, we find two brothers, each struggling with his own “nemesis”. The younger son has requested and received from his father, his portion of his inheritance. He takes the fortune, squanders it  and returns home, to request that his father hires him on as a worker in his fields. The father instead welcomes his son home and throws a party to celebrate the return of a son that was dead to him.

The older son returns home to find the party in full swing. When hearing the object of the celebration, he becomes angry and refuses to join in. His father comes out of the house and the following is their conversation:

The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

 “My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’  Luke 15:28-32

This scripture was used Sunday in the mass I attended with my mother-in-law. I have read it dozens of times. I have heard numerous sermons on it. But Sunday, I heard something new.

Read again the words of the older son. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!

The older son disassociates himself from his brother. In an attempt to get his father to become angry, he is trying to draw the attention from himself and his own jealousy and rage.

The father responds by drawing the older son back in. “My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ 

First, the father reminds the older son that of his love by saying, “My son.” Then the father personalizes the situation; “This brother of yours.”

How many times do we try to separate ourselves from situations with family, friends…even our community, because of the personal effect it has on us? We hold people at arms length at the very times they need our embrace the most.

This is a struggle. To look beyond our own discomfort. To see how a situation affects others around us, not just ourselves.

Ragweed. Who knew it would cause me not only discomfort in my physical health, but in my spiritual as well. Well played, my foe, well played.

1 thought on “Lessons from the side of the road…

  1. Like you, I hadn’t noticed that perspective on the prodigal son before. Unfortunately, though, I have resembled the older brother too many times. I know I at least jokingly referred to my children as “your children” when they acted up, and only claimed them as mine when they were behaving the way I wanted them to. Thank you for reminding me of the Father’s constant abiding love.

    Like

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