I grew up in the farmhouse my grandpa was born in. Our family has farmed and gardened the same land for many generations. I come from a long line of gardeners. In the rural Midwest, it’s just what you do.
My mom grows the best tomatoes; my dad grew giant pumpkins; my grandpa grew amazing cantaloupes. Along with the weather and gas prices, what you grow is also what you talk about. And you show your love for each other by sharing your bounty.
Image credit: Erich Ferdinand / Flickr
Both of my sisters are gardeners. But somehow the gardening gene skipped me. Or maybe it just sweated out of me one day while I was weeding the garden at high noon in 100 percent humidity. Or maybe the sting of mosquitoes, or the biting of beetles, or coming face-to-face with a tomato worm drove it out of me.
I’ve always enjoyed eating the bounty, but I could never bring myself to enjoy the process of growing the bounty. It’s a long and arduous journey: preparing, tilling, planting, watering, weeding, watering, weeding, watering, weeding, watering, weeding. Unless there’s too much rain, which then just means weeding, weeding, weeding, and more weeding…
Which brings me to what I want to focus on: weeding. I was back home earlier this summer, and my mom needed help weeding in the garden. While I weeded, I began to think about a passage from Matthew 13:3-9, which we studied as a church:
A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (NIV, italics added for emphasis)
The thorns that choked the plants are like the weeds I pulled. They threatened the healthy, fruit-bearing plants. I noticed how easy it was to pull the weeds that were young, when the soil was still wet.
But when I came to weeds that were larger, more firmly rooted, or if the soil was drier, they were more difficult to uproot. Often, those weeds broke off at the ground, leaving the root alive and well underneath the soil. It was frustrating, because I knew those weeds would sprout again quickly, stronger than other newly growing weeds. I also noticed that my grasp of the weed mattered. If I grabbed it too quickly, or not at the right angle, again it would break off, leaving the root below the surface.
It made me think of the weeds in my life, the weeds that choke me and prevent me from living my life as God fully intended. My weeds come in the form of distraction, jealousy, irritation, impatience, judgment, criticism, grumbling. They keep me from becoming the fully functional, healthy, fruit-bearing plant that God has designed me to be.
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22, NIV)
Over the years I have weeded my “garden” and cast out big, ugly weeds. But I’ve found that the process is unending. There will always be new weeds. Or some weeds that I thought were gone were really just broken off at ground level. They then grow stronger and spring up more quickly than before.
If I want to be healthy, strong, and living as God intended me to, I need to be diligent, watchful, and disciplined about keeping the weeds from choking me. I need to pull those weeds from the moist ground, before it hardens and becomes more difficult to uproot. And if I find a root that is still underground, I may need to get my shovel and dig it out.
In God’s grace, the seasons come and go. Each day is different from the one before. Sometimes there’s too much sun, sometimes too much rain. A few days are perfect. I hope to be present to the needs of each day as it comes, tending my garden diligently, so in time, my bounty may be plentiful.