56. The Roots of My Frustration


I’ve lived in the same house for the past 20 years so you would think I’d be used to it by now……but I’m not!  It’s an annual rite of spring that has caused more frustration than I can begin to explain.  I won’t bore you with all the details, but some description is necessary to understand how this ongoing situation is actually a reflection of each of our lives.  That analogy hit me this morning when once again I tripped over the “root of my frustration”.

I bought a fixer-upper about 20 years ago. It was a neglected home in a decent, established neighborhood.  Even with my modest abilities, I did most of the work myself to turn this wreck of a house into comfortable home.  It shows some signs of age and my lack of “do-it-yourself” skills, but it’s almost doubled in value and would sell quickly if we chose to move.

My neighbor had planted bamboo to replace his front and side yard a couple of years before we moved in next door. Twenty years later it looks like he’s living in a jungle, completely hidden from public view. If nothing else it’s given him exceptional privacy, which was evidently the intended result.  Unfortunately, the unintended result has been the spread of his bamboo into my lot.

Bamboo is classified as an “invasive species” and should never be planted without a strong barrier to keep it from spreading. With no such barriers in place the roots of the bamboo will launch out horizontally to claim new territory.  Each spring these roots will sprout up vertically wherever they are, with stalks that can be over 2” in diameter.  Incredibly, within just 2-3 days each stalk can grow to be over a foot high or more with multiple stalks sprouting along the run of the underground root.

Over time my neighbor’s bamboo has all but taken over the ground on the north side of my driveway and is moving into my backyard.  It has completely ruined the groundcover that I planted when I moved into the house, annually dislodges the pavers leading into my backyard, and has even grown under my foundation and into my garage.  Worst of all, it creates trip hazards along the driveway or on the pavers that have caught both my wife and I on numerous occasions.  It’s been a constant battle to try to break off the growing stalks and control the spread.  Numerous conversations with my neighbor have left the situation unresolved despite promises to the contrary.  And our mutual frustration with this nuisance has, at times, created tension between my wife and I because I haven’t been as proactive as she’d like me to be with our neighbor.  Our “bamboo problem” seems to get worse and worse each year!

Enough of my sad tale!  I’m sure you can somewhat picture the dread I feel each spring when the first bamboo sprouts begin to pop up.  When that happens I know I’ll be fighting the bamboo wars for the next several months.  What a bummer!

This year the “war” started a couple of weeks ago, right on schedule. Nothing seemed unusual about that until this morning.  When I went out to grab the paper I once again encountered a number of stalks that seemed to have sprouted up overnight.  It actually made me angry.  As I stood there staring at them, somewhat in disgust, a new thought hit me, an analogy I had never considered before.  These annoying shoots of bamboo where a lot like the rest of my life.  Seemingly out of nowhere, at the worst possible moments, negative things seem to pop up unexpectedly.  Whatever they may be, they require my attention, distract me from doing other things, and create a sense of discomfort. Whether these are unanticipated problems, irritating people, financial setbacks, relational issues, occupational stressors, or even little things like bamboo shoots in my yard, frustrations are a real part of my everyday life!

I’m assuming my situation is far from unique. You may not have bamboo invading your property, but you’re no stranger to the unwelcomed problems that pop up in your life.  They usually appear just about the time you feel things are going smoothly and you have things under control.  They may not be big issues, but they are distracting enough to get your attention and cause you some degree of anxiety and discomfort.  You don’t necessarily feel like you’re being attacked, but you do feel like you are facing a never ending supply of difficulties, discouragements and disappointments.

Most of us will fight against those frustrations by looking for solutions, implementing strategies, and resolving to do whatever is required to get past those roadblocks. Problem solving is a necessary skill if we are to successfully negotiate such unexpected hurdles. We may need to develop both the toughness required to deal with a recurring issue, and the flexibility needed to look at different alternatives.  We’re not strangers to this reality, nor will we ever be!  That may not bless you, but we all know it’s true. Amongst other things, life will always be filled with hassles and heartaches.

That being true, it would seem prudent to do whatever we can to prepare ourselves for the inevitability of such detours.  The “bamboo” will always be growing around us; there’s nothing we can really do to avoid that until we enter the other side of this life. Things will go wrong, people will disappoint us, our bodies will be prone to physical failure, our resources may run low, and our well-laid plans will be interrupted. The question isn’t “IF” but “WHEN” those things will happen. Just about the time we think things are under control something will happen to dispel our tranquility. That’s not a pessimistic view of life……it’s reality!  There is no escaping the fact that “stalks” of disruption will sprout up in our lives, creating frustration and turmoil.  Our success in handling those issues will go a long way in determining our overall satisfaction with our lives and our ability to accomplish our desired purposes in life.

The current pandemic of Covid-19 has shot up stalks of discomfort in almost all of our lives.  For thousands there has been a very real physical impact caused by this deadly virus.  Numerous others are dealing the financial implications of being furloughed from their job.  Millions have felt the emotional stress of isolation, loneliness, and a lack of social interaction.  New “stalks” seem to sprout up every day, costing someone something they had not planned to deal with this year.     Businesses are closing,  people are dying, political unrest is increasing, and longer term implications are just beginning to be understood. Virtually no one has been through anything like this before.

I try to imagine how people without a vital faith in God are enduring such a season.  This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve walked through a difficult season, and I’m sure it’s not the last. Though, like you, I’ve never been through anything like this before, I can fall back on how God has brought me through my past trials and believe He’ll bring me through this one too.  The Biblical writers often talked about stuff like that, relying on God’s faithfulness to walk with them through the storm.  Even in the darkest night I find reassurance in knowing that I’m not alone and that’s there’s hope on the other side.

Don’t get me wrong…..I still get frustrated when the “bamboo” of problems sprout up in my life, just like I do when the bamboo sprouts up in my yard.  I seriously wish it would go away and leave me alone.  But today I found some comfort in realizing that though the battles will continue, I don’t have to win the battle to actually win the war.  My task is to do the best I can with what I have at my disposal, to fight the good fight, and leave the results to God.  As someone once said, “Just do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason”.  That may actually help me defeat the “bamboo” that disrupts my life…..or it may not….but it will help me get over the “root of my frustration”. History has proven it’s not what actually happens to you that’s ultimately most important…it’s how you respond!

So the question is,  “What roots of frustration are you tripping over in your life?” 

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