By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published October 3, 2022
It was a simple enough plan. I’d go into the backyard and place the garden hose at the base of my favorite flowering tree, which was looking parched from the sun. A nice, steady trickle of water a few minutes each day would surely work wonders.
Stepping outside, I spotted the hose, twisted at the foot of the stairs like a large green serpent. I picked it up, figuring this wouldn’t be a difficult task, but what I didn’t realize at first was that two hoses had become knotted together.
As I loosened one knot, two more developed. Mosquitoes happily feasted on my flesh, and mud spattered on my clothing. I was tempted to give up, but kept reminding myself this wasn’t an impossible task, just one requiring patience.
Later, I thought about the tangles in our lives, and how difficult it can be to free ourselves from them. I thought about Adam and Eve and how their disobedience toward God produced our fallen world, overflowing with knots.
When they were thrown out of Eden, God told Adam he would have to work hard and sweat to produce the food he needed. As for Eve, she would suffer the pains of childbirth. Since then, human beings have been busily producing knots, including family misunderstandings and broken relationships.
In my mom’s family, decades ago, there was a huge disagreement that ended up with two of my mother’s brothers breaking off communication with the rest of the family. What this meant for my cousins and myself was the knowledge we would never meet these uncles, plus their children. Think of all the love lost because of that feud!
I’ve also seen too many instances of families broken apart, because the father is having a “midlife crisis.” His actions may create ugly emotional knots in the lives of the children, who often take upon themselves the guilt of his leaving. “Daddy left us because he didn’t love us anymore.”
Another type of knot involves our past, which comes back to haunt us. Sometimes we ruminate over old sins, which have been forgiven, but we still allow the devil to taunt us with them. Keep in mind he delights in our misery and will tie as many knots as possible.
Father Jacques Philippe writes about people who can’t forgive themselves for sins that were absolved in past confessions. The problem is lack of trust in God: “We don’t really believe in this reality of the forgiveness of God, and so we don’t always fully welcome it.” Ruminating over past sins will cease, when we open ourselves fully to God’s mercy.
A third knot is the suffering connected with serious illness. My friend’s husband was diagnosed with brain cancer, and went from fully functioning to bedridden in a hospice in the course of two months. Suddenly, the happy life they built together crashed down around her.
When I had cancer more than 20 years ago, I felt imprisoned by the knot of fear and anxiety, and had to control my imagination, which kept churning out worse-case scenarios. It took the passage of time, plus many prayers, to realize the illness brought me closer to God.
Confronted with a painful emotional or spiritual knot, we can ask for Mary’s intercession, since she is known as the “undoer of knots.” St. Irenaeus wrote, “The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith.”
As for me, I finally triumphed over the snarled garden hoses, despite my initial skepticism and frustration. My battle scars included muddy clothes and an abundance of mosquito bites, but it was worth it, since the flowering tree has definitely perked up.