Friday, July 02, 2010

Lessons From the Garden

Several years ago, I discovered that I am a flower gardener. I'm not terribly good at it yet, but I've been slowly improving each year, and now that I have a dear friend with a greenhouse business, I'm learning even more. My level of expertise matters less to me than the joy I get from my efforts. As my greenhouse friend says, it's not so much the amount of green on your thumb as it is the amount of dirt under your fingernails.

So I was out weeding yesterday. The biggest of my flower gardens needed it badly. I started in an area that was a little bit shaded and thus still moist from the previous day's rain. To my delight, the invasive weeds popped out of the ground rather easily. Their roots were shallow and with only a little tug, released their hold. The work went quickly.

Finishing the shady area by the graceful little cherry tree, I moved into a sunny spot filled with petunias. I gave a fistful of weeds the same tug as I'd used before, but there was no satisfying pop this time. This time, there was a tearing sound as the tops of the weeds broke off in my hand. I tried again. Same result.

Of course. I should have known, I chided myself, that it's much easier to pull weeds when the garden has been well-watered. I turned on the sprinkler, waited an hour, and then tried again. Pop! I smiled. That was more like it.

So I pulled weeds for another hour or so, the warm sun beating down on me and the merciful breeze keeping me from overheating. As I pulled, I thought about those weeds and the soil and the beauty of the garden in bloom.

Just like my garden, my heart can be well-tended or it can be neglected. The result of either condition is readily apparent; it is either vibrant and blooming, or dry and barren.

The Bible frequently refers to the Word of God in terms of water. It's no wonder, really, that that analogy is so often used when water is so very basic and vital to life in general, human or otherwise. Our bodies, our earth, our atmosphere, so much is just water. I'm no scientist, but I would think it is arguably the most essential life force in existence.

So if my heart is a garden, then keeping it well-watered with the Word of God is essential--at least if I want it to flourish and thrive. If I'm fine with brown and dry, then there's no need...but I''m not ok with that.

But in any healthy garden, weeds are bound to spring up. They are things that don't belong in a showcase of gorgeous flowers. They are imposters, pretending to be important and sneak in unnoticed, but really just stealing the benefits of the good soil and moisture from the plants that belong there. The weeds of the heart are many. They may be sin issues, worry and doubt, dissensions, distractions. The Bible addresses things like this in the second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 5:

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Those weeds need to be yanked. Taken captive. They need to be brought before the Master Gardener, who knows what belongs and what doesn't. He knows the truth and can tell a flower from a weed. The flowers are nourished. The weeds get dumped on the burn pile.

Weeds are tenacious little buggers, though. When a garden is a little dry and the soil packs hard around their shallow roots, they can hang on for dear life. Ripping off their tops only makes them look a little better on the surface, but does nothing to their roots, so they only grow right back. And like any plant that has been simply pruned, they grow back even bigger and stronger than they were before. Pruning encourages growth, of course.

It is only when the garden has been well-watered and the soil is soft that the weeds can be easily removed--root and all. So now if you'll pardon me, I need to go water the garden of my heart.

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