With record-setting heat, moles or voles, a limited amount of well water, and various trips out of town it has been hard to keep anything growing in the lawn or garden. Our instant lawn (sod) was so green and lush at the beginning of summer and the garden started off well with a bumper crop of radishes (which no one at Four Sisters Farm really likes except me) but went downhill from there. I lost all seven potato plants (a friend recently told me that it's so hot in Kansas right now that your potatoes come out of the garden already baked...yuk, yuk) and now I am watering twice a day in hopes that the tomatoes, green peppers, jalepenos, cantaloupe, watermelon, and pumpkins will actually produce a good amount when the heat lets up a little.
With all the time spent in the lawn and garden, I have had some time to ponder...especially about the weeds...
I noticed that even without water, early in the growing season, the weeds nearly took over the garden. As I've battled them in various ways I documented the most success when I literally pulled the weeds out by the roots...they ceased to be if I pulled them before they produced seed and the more weeds I pulled, the less weeds I saw. After one trip, the weeds appeared to have completely won in an unplanted section of the garden plot so I had Pop bring in the rototiller and chew them up...this really helped except that they came back quickly. Then after another trip, Pop brought in the bush hog and knocked the nuisances down...their response was to spread out their roots and dig in a little deeper. That got me to thinking...and as I pondered what God might be revealing to me, I realized that the weeds are often like sin in our lives.
- All take root easily, at times without our even realizing they have.
- Most have some sort of flowering stage when they look kind of pretty to us and we don’t overtly object to them.
- Some come up and we question whether they are a weed or something that should be growing in our yard or garden.
- Some of these weeds have been growing there for so long; we have given up on getting rid of them.
Of course, we always have choices. Sometimes we ignore the weeds for a very long time and even convince ourselves that it isn't that bad - after all, look at our neighbors' lawns! We can even attempt to hide the fact that we have weeds by keeping the unwanted plants cut short so they masquerade as grass. When we get serious and think about what we want in our lawn, most would agree that a thriving, green, growing, healthy stand of grass is the best choice. Then we have to decide how hard we want to work at it. At times, a neighbor, friend, or relative will talk with us and point out things that have been helpful to them in getting and maintaining a great lawn. Sometimes we are receptive, sometimes we aren't - the choice is ours.
Like the weeds growing on the outer edges of our lawns, sometimes we allow sin in the outer edges of our lives - like maybe we act one way at church and an entirely other way at work or at home. We convince ourselves that it's okay - we don't want to be thought of as too righteous at work, right? Wrong! The reality is that we are called to be holy regardless of where we are or who we are with.
A weed is defined as any plant that crowds out cultivated plants. It is considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially when it is growing where it is not wanted. It’s considered useless, worthless, or detrimental. It is interesting that one might consider certain grasses as weeds in their lawns while another person may welcome a fast growing grass that takes over everything in its path.
Now, let's liken our lawns further to our Christian lives...we know it is best to have a healthy, thriving relationship with Christ that is apparent to those we are in contact with. How do we keep the sin out of our lives? When we take a close look, have some sins begun to take root? Are we telling ourselves that it's not so bad? After all, we know people at church who do worse things than we do, right? Are there some sins that have been there so long that we have given up and decided we can never be rid of them? Do we tell ourselves that God can overlook the sins since He is such a loving God or maybe that it doesn’t matter anyway because our sins are so bad that God couldn’t possibly love us?
I’m not talking about perfection here. I’m talking about paying attention and inspecting our lives; about asking God to show us where we are allowing things to take root that will hinder our walk and our witness. We're talking about allowing God to discipline us for our own good and for His glory (“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7-11 NIV). I’m talking about how roots like roots of bitterness, envy, and malice are much more easily destroyed in the early phases of growth. (“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:25-32 NIV)
In seeking the Father who is the Master Gardener and asking for His help in getting rid of the sins in our lives, we find that God disciplines those He loves and that nothing can separate us from God’s love. It stands to reason then that when God convicts us of sin, He is demonstrating His love for us. By God’s Holy Spirit, He will bring to our minds, the sins that we have allowed to remain in our lives and will convict us to get rid of those sins. When we seek Him, we find His grace and mercy and goodness as He forgives us the sins of which we repent. He may even use us to help our brothers and sisters in Christ to clean up their lives as well. We don’t have to be fearful about exhorting one another and spurring one another on to love and good works but instead, we can be experience freedom with one another and security in His love even when it is hard.
God can make our hearts fertile soil for growing the fruits of His Holy Spirit instead of weeds of sin. He can give us a genuine desire to be rid of the things we've allowed to take root that need to be uprooted. We can thank Him that He is faithful to complete the work He has begun in us.
Next time you see a beautifully manicured lawn or an empty lot overgrown with weeds, I hope you will remember this comparison and take it heart. Seek the Master Gardner with all your heart and He will be found and He will help.