Images from the Botanical Gardens Bonsai exhibit recently have been valuable icons for me, and this is one such image. The little bonsai, seen from above reveals that the wood slice on which it sits is part of the decisions of the bonsai artist as they imagined and produced this bit of living art. The tender green leaves of the living plant on top of the slice of no-longer-living wood, whose rings betray many years of life, is an interesting juxtaposition for me as I begin this hard work of recovery from work-addiction.
I always used to think that people who said they were work-addicts were just people who had decided to become lazy. Or perhaps were people who simply wanted a change but did not have the courage to get a different, more enjoyable job. But now I know that for many of us, we are addicted to the adrenaline and the numbing exhaustion because it is a form of anesthetizing pain, loss or loneliness, much the way your run-of-the-mill alcoholic, porn addict, shopping-addict or food-addict uses those things to not-feel.
When I gaze on this image of the plant on wood I am reminded that no matter how many rings of old, dead wood are there in one’s life, that wood is the platform for the new growth which is potent in all of life – the life of a person, the life of a family, the life of a church. And so perhaps the pain and suffering we experience in our lives is the backdrop which, when set against new, tender hope, makes the entire picture just perfect. I do not want to go back to those old wood rings. I am content to see what this new growth does. But I am also aware that together, they still make a lovely picture, a lovely artwork beloved of my Creator – who sees it all and is saddened by the suffering while finding it all, together, lovely and pleasing and useful.