“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper.” John 15:1
I love beautiful flowers with their vibrant colors, and I love the idea of planting flowers and growing plants. Two years ago, I was determined that it would be the year I planted a garden. I was gung-ho and had the boys out in the yard helping plow it up and get it all prepped and ready to go. I had visions of harvesting tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, and corn. I nearly could taste the BLT on my tongue with the juicy fresh tomatoes from my garden. I already knew just the recipes to use for zucchini chips and fried squash.
Yet I failed to plan for the one barrier that would prevent me from a successful gardening year–my lack of a green thumb. And I don’t mean that I just don’t have the niche for it. I am saying my thumb is black. I have the gardening black thumb of death. How I managed to raise four children and keep them alive along with the household pets is truly a miracle, considering my valiant failures at gardening. You know how it goes, they (whoever they may be) say to start small and see if you can keep a plant alive and then a fish and then a pet, working your way up to parenthood. Good thing I didn’t follow that logic. I would still be back at the phase 1 of plant parenting.
Needless to say, the harvest of 2019 left much to be desired. Somehow, if the vegetables appeared on the stems, they never survived to ripened maturity, sadly. Last year, I decided that I was not going have a repeat of the year before and invest all the hours in the garden just for another epic failure. I found the most delightfully beautiful hummingbird garden I would plant instead. I was not giving up, just changing course a little bit. I had plans to look out my window and behold the beauty of the flowers rather than the bane of my existence with vegetables.
Until…I began to notice some things I most definitely had not planted beginning to sprout in the once-vegetable now-flower garden. I set about weeding and determined to pull up all that did not belong there that would interfere with the healthy development of my lovely flowers that were sure to attract hummingbirds. What I quickly discovered was that rather than weeds and unwanted tufts of grass, tomato plants were popping up all over place, as were pepper plants and corn stalks. I thought to myself how hysterically rich this was turning out to be. The year I planted a garden, I had a minimal harvest, if at all. Yet the year I did not plant vegetables, they blossomed in abundance. 2020 in a nutshell!
Fast forward to this past weekend, and I had fashioned my to-do list to include pulling up the weeds from my flower garden, as it had been perennials I had planted and I had been watching new growth spring forth. Thankfully, ( I think), I did not see any rogue tomatoes, peppers, or stalks of corn. At first, it was easy to distinguish the difference between my desirable flower plants and the unwanted weeds. Yet the muddier my knees grew, the more convoluted the plants and the weeds became because some of the weeds resembled flowers.
I was knee-deep in the muck and began to second-guess some of what I had already ripped from the ground. Had I inadvertently uprooted my perennials? Was that one section I left alone really some of my flower plants or had I kept some undesirable weeds? Even the next day, after I had finished the arduous task of eradicating the weeds, I was still questioning if I had accidentally messed up. As I was walking my dogs at the park later, I saw some similar…weeds…to the ones I had pulled and reassured myself once and for all that I had chosen correctly when deciding what to keep and what to discard.
But, wow, what a parallel to our everyday lives and our walks with Christ. From a distance, it is easy to identify and discern what needs to be uprooted and weeded out of our lives–which activities, social media sites, tv shows, movies, music, books, etc. we should avoid and what unwanted character traits we possess that do not reflect Jesus. Yet once the weeds began to intermingle and grow amongst the desirable plants and we are in the middle of it, sometimes it can be hard for us to know what needs to go and what needs to remain.
Weeds can even be pretty. What begins as pretty can quickly disintegrate into the ugly. We allow the cares of this world and the worries of life to choke us and prevent us from breathing in the fresh air found in the Word of God. Or we see the smallest hint of the weed, poking its weak little head through the soil, and we ignore it because it’s not that big of a deal right? All of sudden it seems like the weeds and the wildflowers all look the same.
What do we do? We must carefully and watchfully tend to our gardens to protect us and our homes from an overgrowth and explosion of weeds. When I weed my garden, it becomes way more challenging if I have let it go for too long. The ideal way to manage it is to consistently tend to it and uproot the weeds. Not merely chop off the head and leave the root deep under the soil. If it has been around a while, the roots can become deep, widespread, and difficult to dig up. I was using some force and muscle to get to some of those weeds in my garden for that exact reason. When I grew tired, I was even tempted to just yank off the heads but thankfully, I stayed the course and continued uprooting.
So it goes in life. The garden may look pretty at first glance because the weeds have been decapitated, but if they have not been uprooted, then the ugly is spreading beneath the surface. When we are abiding in Christ, He will faithfully assist us in discerning the weeds from the wildflowers. He will show us what needs to be uprooted in our lives. Sometimes, the weeds in our lives are the external things. Other times, the weeds are growing from inside of us–pride, selfish ambitions, jealousy, greed, idolatry, slander, lying, impurity, and evil desires. Jesus continues to be the great Gardener. He will reveal to us what lies beneath the pretty exterior of the weeds. He will strengthen us through His Spirit to uproot the weeds rather than merely decapitating them. Just like with weeds, when the root remains imbedded in the soil, it will grow back.
I want to walk amongst the wildflowers, captivated by their beauty, enthralled with their Creator. I want to find my root in the Vinedresser, the great Gardener, Jesus Christ. The weeds hinder us from stepping into everything Jesus has for us. The weeds are deceptively sneaky and choke our spiritual growth and maturity. When we allow Jesus to untangle us from the weeds and uproot what does not belong, space is created for rich and beautiful wildflowers to bloom. We will bear the fruit of the Spirit.
My prayer for you and for me today, friend, is found in Ephesians 3:17-18, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.”