Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Garden of Weedin'

It's that time again. Spring. Time to survey the damage winter did to the yard and get it back in shape. Sandwiched in between last week's several days of rain and the multiple days of thunderstorms predicted for this week, were a few beautiful days that were just perfect for tackling the jungle that once was my back yard. Yikes. I could have lost a kid in all that grass.

Much to my dismay, when I got up close and personal with the overgrowth, I discovered that, once again, the army of weeds I spend every spring and summer fighting off had made significant advances into the yard. It also seemed to have secured the perimeter of my fencerow with a tall and nearly impregnable line of defense.

Heaving a sigh, I remembered what one gardener friend told me last year. The best way to fight off weeds is to get the grass really healthy and growing so it will choke out the weeds and reclaim the yard. Sounded reasonable to me. And familiar, too. Where had I heard something similar to that before? The idea tickled my brain as I hauled out the mower.

As I began shoving my trusty mower through that mess, it hit me. Weeds....choking something out. There was something about that in the Bible.

Ever notice how many of Jesus' parables and illustrations inlude references to farming, plants, and other aspects of agriculture? The "Lord of the Harvest" gave us wheat and tares, fig trees, mustard seeds, vineyards, and of course, the parable of the sower scattering his seed.

Ah, that's what it was. The parable of the sower (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23). Remember him? He went out to seed his land, and the seed ended up finding its way not only to the good soil he had prepared, but also to some rocky soil, the roadside, and a patch of thorns (which NCV {New Century Version} translates as "weeds"):

Some other seed fell among thorny weeds, which grew and choked the good plants.
Matthew 13:7 (NCV)

That's exactly what was going on in my yard! The grass wasn't yet strong enough to choke out all the weeds, the weeds were choking out my good crop of grass. They were also making my fencerow look awful, so I finished up the mowing, and, mentally assessing our temperamental edger, decided to clean off the fencerow by hand.

As I began yanking at those pesky plants, God reminded me that we all have weeds in our lives that need to be pulled up. So just what constitutes a "weed" in our spiritual lives? Well, Jesus was kind enough to explain that in Matthew 13:22:

And what is the seed that fell among the thorny weeds? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching but lets worries about this life and the temptation of wealth stop that teaching from growing. So the teaching does not produce fruit in that person's life. (NCV)

Jesus compares the weeds to two things: "the worries about this life" and "the temptation of wealth".

"The worries about this life" could cover just about anything. It could be a financial struggle, a wayward child, a difficult marriage, a hostile work environment, or even a painful past that we're striving to put behind us. Any situation we deal with that looms so large, it blocks out our view of Christ and prevents us from trusting Him to handle it. Anything that takes our eyes off Him, tempts us to focus only on our circumstances, and derails the teaching God is trying to manifest in our lives.

"The temptation of wealth" could also cover a lot of areas in our lives. I Timothy 6:10 tells us that "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil...". Evil. In other words, sin.

"A root". Hmmm...interesting.

Well, I was certainly dealing with plenty of roots. When it comes to weeds, it doesn't do much good to simply pull the leaves off or snap the stem in half. For some reason, weeds-- at least the ones in my yard --seem to take this as a challenge to grow back. You have to pull weeds up by the roots in order to get rid of them.

Likewise, if there is something in our lives which "stops {God's} teachings from growing" or prevents God's teachings from producing fruit in our lives (see Matthew 13:22 above) we need to have the Master Gardener root out the instigating problem rather than plucking at its leaves ourselves.

For example, if you're struggling with being a workaholic, you can break off part of the stem of that problem by cutting back on work a few hours a week, but the root of the problem may be that you have made work an idol in place of God, that you don't trust Him to provide for your needs, or that you are loving yourself and your work more than your family. If those root problems aren't dealt with you will likely fail in your efforts to cut back on work, or something else, such as a hobby, may spring up to take the place of those hours you would have spent at work.

As I continued to work, I noticed that some weeds were very easy to pull up and some were quite difficult. The easiest to pull seemed to be the weeds that had taken root in the decaying leaf matter on top of the soil rather than in the soil itself. The difficult ones were the ones that had been growing for a long period of time. Some of their roots were over a foot long. These roots had made their way far from the visible plant and into another part of the yard, which meant they were affecting much more than just the immediate area around the plant itself.

And so it is with our spiritual weeds. The best time to deal with sin or turn a troubling situation over to God is early, before it has a chance to take root, because once it does, it's going to be much harder to deal with and it's going to begin to affect more and more areas of our lives.

Dealing with sin or difficult situations pre-emptively is even better. Flee temptation before you have a chance to give in to it (I Timothy 6:11, II Timothy 2:22). Determine to commit your works to the Lord (Proverbs 16:3) and acknowledge Him in all your ways (Proverbs 3:5-6) and you will avoid some of the heartbreaking circumstances that might otherwise come your way.

As I struggled with one particularly stubborn weed, I noticed that its roots were intertwined with those of a couple of other totally different weeds. As I pulled at the one I was working on, the others were coming up as well.

When God pulls up those really difficult weeds in our lives, we will often find that He is simultaneously uprooting other sins and situations that have become enmeshed with the primary one. Sometimes when this happens to me, I feels like God is "piling on" and wish He would just work on one thing at a time in my life!

By the time I reached the end of the fencerow, I was sweating, my back was killing me, and I had broken two nails, despite the gardening gloves I was wearing. Pulling weeds is not a day at Disney World. It's tough work!

But as I stood back and surveyed the results of my efforts, I saw that the fencerow no longer looked trashy. It looked clean and neat. Something any gardener would be pleased with. And, something else had happened that I hadn't even noticed until that moment. As the roots of those weeds came up, they naturally tilled the soil.

It was moist,

loose,

rich;

the perfect condition for good seed to be sown by a Master Gardener.

2 comments:

Angel said...

Thank you for a wonderful article that really made me think. I read it at a time when I needed a new look at life.

Michelle said...

Thank you, Angel. I'm glad God used it to speak to you.