Lessons Learned

My flowerpots do not usually look like this. As you can see, there is a little bench in the pot, part of a former “fairy garden” that I still use in various flowerpots. There used to be a little fairy sitting on the bench. She has disappeared in the last few weeks. I am not exactly sure where she is, but if history repeats herself, I will probably find her in the spring. I will most likely find her buried in a pot—maybe this one, maybe another one. She does not do this herself, of course. Instead, the squirrels in my backyard round up the fairies from time to time and bury them in pots along with the acorns that they are saving for the winter.

That is why there is a deep hole, and the roots of the plant are exposed. Squirrels have been digging in all my flowerpots, planning for the winter. But here’s the thing. Those pots will not be on my back deck much longer. As soon as I have a few hours when I don’t have to be on zoom and it is not raining, they are going in my potting shed until the spring. The squirrels will not have access to their carefully buried acorns (and the collaterally included fairies.) All this work, all this planning—all for naught.

Now, you would think that they would learn from year to year that this is not a good plan. (I just googled the lifespan of a squirrel—usually a couple of years, maybe a little longer.) So at least some of the current squirrels should remember from last year that the pots are going away. This is not a good plan. It will not work. They are spending all this energy to no avail.

Why do they do it? Here is my assumption. It is easy. The soil in the pots is much looser than the soil in the lawn. They have found an easy target for the work that they have been taught and that is part of their genetic urging. They take the path of least resistance, even though it will not have the desired outcome. In the spring, I will find either rotted acorns or little, tiny sprouts to be removed from the pots. But those acorns will not provide food for the cold months ahead.

How often do we take the easy way out in our work in our congregations? I served a congregation once that ran like a machine—there were certain programs that were done on the same Sundays every year since they had always done them that way. It was easy. They knew the schedule. They knew what cookies to serve and what banners to hang. The problem was that the programs had existed for 30 years. They were designed for a church that no longer existed. Once they brought people into the church; once they brought joy; once they shared the gospel in a way that changed peoples’ lives. No more. But the congregation just kept doing what it had always done.

When it comes to the big issues that we have been addressing about race, we also often take the easy path. Pretend you did not hear the offensive comment; look away from the way someone is shunned; tell the joke just to your friends where it cannot do any harm. Just keep burying those acorns in a place where they will never feed you when you need it.

Our call is not to follow old patterns because they are easy or once made sense. Our call is to share the gospel in a way that it changes peoples’ lives in 2021 so that they might also know hope in Jesus Christ.
Sue Krummel, Executive Presbyter