how my kokedamas taught me to stop running away from myself
kokedama moss ball workshop

Last October, I signed myself up for a kokedama (Japanese for “moss ball”) workshop, despite having a very poor track record when it came to caring for plants. I had been in Vancouver for two months, and I was raring to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. No one here knew that the succulents in my possession back in Singapore had shriveled up and died (and I lived in the tropics!), or that I felt icky about touching dirt with my bare hands.

At the workshop, I nervously scooped up chunks of cool black dirt and patted them onto a bed of wet moss. I tried squeezing the moss-covered dirt into a dense, compact sphere, but ended up with something more teardrop-shaped. I also went overboard when it came to binding the moss ball with twine, which resulted in my first kokedama looking like, well, a clumpy ball of string. (FYI: My second attempt was marginally better.)

Making the kokedamas reminded me of my approach to my new life in Vancouver. Starting on a fresh, clean slate, in a city where I was virtually unknown and had no emotional baggage to contend, with was such an attractive concept. So what if I never actually had green fingers? I could certainly improve on that front. Being here, to put it bluntly, presented a wonderful opportunity to “re-invent” myself.

But I’ve come to realize that I was looking at it all wrong. I was focused outwardly on the things I wanted to accomplish and the friendships I longed to develop, when God was leading me to look inwardly at the secret, vulnerable places in my heart that I had neglected for far too long. In Vancouver, and at Regent, there was finally space to pause and reflect, and recognize that there were parts of me that desperately needed healing and restoration.

My kokedamas help me to remember that I am dust, to borrow from Walter Brueggemann. While imperfect and covered in the dirt stains of my anxieties, fears, failures and mistakes, I am still precious, worthy, and loved.

It is my prayer for new (and returning) students that you might be able to dig deep amidst your readings, DQs and gobbets. That you might lean into the process instead of solely focusing on the end goal—confronting and wrestling with the parts of you that you’ve tried to hide or run away from, allowing His gentle prodding to lead you into a greater examination of areas that you’ve closed Him out of. And in the process, inviting Him to do a new work and breathe new life into those places.

I went into the kokedama workshop hoping to produce something beautiful that I could display in my new home as “a work of art.” All these months later, I now know that it isn’t what I create, but what my Creator is doing within me, that is so much more glorious and joyful and lovely to behold.

This article was originally written for and published in Et Cetera’s Fall 2018 Issue 1, Regent College’s weekly paper.