Last year we had to cut down a huge, beautiful blue spruce tree that had died a slow death due to some disease that spread its way through our city. It was a bummer that this mammoth tree died and quite an undertaking removing it from our backyard. I left the area (a good 20-25′ diameter) where the tree used to stand untouched for a little over a year. I debated about what to do in the now barren spot. I kicked around a few ideas, but finally decided to just plant grass seed.
In order to get the full picture here, you must understand that this huge, beautiful blue spruce tree was once home to lots of forts, clubhouses, and hiding places in the 10 years prior to its passing. There were toys and tools and weapons galore under this tree at one time or another.
So, after the ground laid tree-less for a year, I decided to clean it up so I could plant grass seed. I raked up an endless amount of twigs and short pine needles. As I raked and hoed and worked the ground, I discovered several little treasures that had been buried over the years—a whiffle ball, some magic markers, boards, nails, hot wheels, army men, Legos, kitchen utensils, and just about anything else you could imagine little boys playing with under there. Digging up the past in this spot sorta made me smile a bit as I thought about the countless hours of fun my boys have had there.
I cleaned it all up. No more random trinkets poking their way through the dirt. I raked until I was blue in the face. I worked the ground as best I knew how. When the dust had settled and the ground appeared to be a fresh, clean slate, I scattered the grass seed.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I watered almost daily for a couple weeks. Admittedly it was pretty cool seeing the progress of the seeds turning into tiny green dots, then full-fledged blades of grass. But then, after the new growth, something interesting started to happen. Every day that passed, some little things in the ground began to surface. Things that weren’t there the day before or the week before. These little “somethings” were pellets from my son’s pellet gun. Yes, ammunition. Bright orange ones and bright yellow ones about the size of a pea popped up here and there, slowly and subtly.
“How interesting,” I thought. I was pretty sure that I had spent hours working that ground, hoeing and raking up all of its “past,” and removing all the “residual effects” it had stored under there. I never saw a single pellet anywhere. But yet, here—among the fresh ground and new growth—was more of the past coming to the surface. And of all the things that could surface from the past, it was ammunition.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? I mean, after all the work I’d done to remove the past and foster new growth, the ammo still surfaced.
Have you ever had this happen to you? No, not the blue spruce tree part, but the surfacing of the past part. Our pasts can be such a Pandora ’s Box. If we spend too much time reflecting on our past, it can open us up to relive some of the pain and ugly stuff that’s in it. But even when we’ve worked through some of that, even when we’ve dug it up and tried to foster new growth in ourselves, occasionally something long-time-buried comes to the surface. And it catches us off guard. And it’s ammunition. It’s guilt. It’s shame. It’s poor choices. It’s moments of weakness. It’s seasons of sin. Unbeknownst to us, it works its way from the depths of our hearts or faded memories, and makes an appearance like the bright orange pellets.
We can’t forget our past. It’s forever a part of who we are. But we certainly can use the ammo to revert us back to the God who has walked us through it. By His grace, we can say, “Thank you, God, for loving me in spite of my ugly past. Thank you, God, for not holding my past against me. Thank you, God, for nurturing me and fostering new growth in me. Thank you, God, for using my past to shape me into the person I am today.”
Let us never forget, “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).