Where other trees hide their core behind a hard outer shell, the Melaleuca tree stands gallantly exposed, all its layers hanging out in plain view. It's a mess and it doesn’t seem to care. In fact it seems to have made an art form out of its chaos.
Art galleries of the world hang many paintings not nearly as beautiful or emotive as its inner soul.
Its fine delicate layers are exquisite in themselves and the colours they generate are breathtaking. Every Melaleuca tree has its unique mess, just like you and me.
Yes, somewhere in all our lives we have our own glorious mess. Maybe you’ve been like me and kept order in the outside world, the one place you can largely control, unlike some of the inner mess that defies all efforts to be subdued.
But like the layers of the Melaleuca, mess and muddle are woven through every part of my life. The ways I bumbled through motherhood, being a daughter, a wife and a friend, and yet all those failures are gloriously mixed with the good and the beautiful things that have been a part of all those roles. They are the paint splashes and brushstrokes of my life.
It's the whole picture that tells the story. Yet it's so easy to focus on all my failings or only on the things I’m proud of but we are a precious mixture of ‘glory and grime’. There’s something wonderfully freeing about accepting that truth.
I've been struck by how Lucy Maud Montgomery depicts brilliantly most of the people we meet in the course of our life. Rachel Lynde, the gossip and lady who prides herself on speaking her mind, Matthew Cuthbert who has a love as deep as the ocean but has no idea how to express it. Anne, whose temper always gets the better of her, Marilla, whose refusal to forgive left her without the love and family she longed for and Katherine Brooks, whose bitterness and hate fractured every relationship. Yet hidden amongst all the prickles and distasteful traits are the tender, beautiful, endearing parts of their soul that shine through in the way they care for each other.
I’d always thought of it as a wonderfully romantic story of love and loss but now I see it as the story of each of us as we struggle to live and love in the midst of our shared brokenness. It's the commonality of our mess that connects us most deeply if we allow it.
I remember the day a friend told me that while she knew I didn't have expectations of her, she felt she could never measure up because I set the bar so high. I felt shattered by her honesty but loved her for it.
It was the beginning of a long journey of learning to shed the shackles of perfectionism and it hasn't finished yet. Living with my mess and muddle exposed takes courage but it leads to a connection that will never be possible through layers of togetherness.