Toiling with the earth and fighting a year-long battle against nature, farmers hope for high yields from the perfect crop. Even though the farmer knows that nature will always win (for she has an arsenal at her disposal), the farmer seeks to control that which cannot be contained. Untameable, nature arbitrarily sends drought, flood, ice, and weeds. One such challenge is the feral stinging nettle plant.
Carried by the wind, the seed settles in the farmer’s fields. The misery of the plant is hidden on the underside of its heart-shaped leaf where there are tiny hairs that will bite you with an irritating sting. Even so, arms at the ready, workers set out to eradicate the plant from their fields.
However, the nettle is more than an unruly nuisance to be yanked out by its roots and tossed into the fire. Surprisingly, the leafy green herbaceous contains a whopping 25% protein and a slew of nutritional vitamins and minerals.
Just like the farmers, we toil for perfection; although, our crop is the perfect life. Convinced of our omnipotence, we make plans as if we are the masters of our lives. Oblivious to the reality that nature cannot be controlled, life is not perfect, and troubles will come into our lives, our plans are ill-conceived. Therefore, it is not surprising that we are dismayed when stinging nettles blow into our neat schemes. And, with the strategy of a general, we raise our banner of war against the unwelcome intruder.
Most Americans strive to live a life free from all difficulties. We dream of attaining the perfect life — which is nothing more than a life of ease. How many of us want to be the occupants of an Adirondack chair nestled at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea? Or, maybe, we prefer a cabin in the woods overlooking a calm lake with no one else in sight.
Whatever form our perfect life takes, it does not include tribulations. When they come, we are quick to beg God to remove them. Maybe we become angry and lament, “Why me?” Most often, we are slaves to our delusion that bad things only happen to other people. But, they don’t. Stinging nettles settle into our lives and illness, disease, accidents, and pain disrupt our lives.
Chronic illness cannot be eradicated. There is no miracle cure. We, who suffer from chronic heart-stinging nettles, learn that we cannot wage a war against that which cannot be controlled. Eventually, we take a different approach: we consume the plant before it consumes us. Having fought the war for years, we evolve into warriors with the ability to be nourished by the nettles.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that suffering is good. What I am saying is that we can turn our lives around when they have been turned upside down. As much as we want our chronic illness, our pain, our depression, or our anxiety to disappear, we are not masters of nature.
By devouring our chronic illness, we develop patience. From our patience springs wisdom. We see differently, feel differently, and understand differently. Living with a chronic disease teaches us hard lessons. Every day is a new challenge, and we continue to learn how to live with our disability. We may not be able to do much (if any) physical exercise, but we strengthen our minds by taking our thoughts captive.
Fueled by our decision to devour the weeds in our life, the stinging nettle provides us with insight, sensitivity, and tenderness. Our ability to comfort others is intensified. Our purity of heart shines through our words and deeds.
Our disAbility has given us the ability to live beyond our disability.