Years ago I walked into a particular doctor’s office for the first time and sitting behind the desk doing scheduling was a big surprise. There was my old high school English teacher. I remembered her so fondly, as much for her teaching ability as for the wonderful stories she told about her husband and children whom she clearly adored.
I still vividly remember her story of the first Christmas tree she and her husband had when they were newlyweds barely scraping by. Her eyes glistened with joy as she recounted it to us.
“Mrs. Sullivan! You were my high school English teacher; do you remember me?” I refreshed her on the year and the school. “Oh” she said, with a disgusted frown. She appeared not to remember or care. ” What are you doing here?” I asked; “You don’t teach anymore?”
Something like a cold blast came pouring out of her mouth hitting me square in the face, erasing my smile. No, she didn’t teach anymore she told me indignantly; there’s no money in teaching when you have to support yourself alone; when your husband has left you with nothing. She had clearly been betrayed! She didn’t give details. I said no more, just quickly made the needed appointment and left the office.
What had happened to her? Events in life had crushed her somehow and squeezed out of her every drop of joy, optimism, eagerness for living. She was now sour and bitter and it clung to her like dark perfume, polluting the air of everyone who came near.
The Message paraphrases Hebrews 12:15 this way; “Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” So I have a question for you as you think of Mrs. Sullivan: how does your garden grow?