Growing up my mom was quite the gardener. I never really had to pull a weed, till the soil, or tend to watering in order to enjoy the beautiful garden. She worked and I enjoyed.
Recently I weeded the small flower bed in front of my house. It had been quite some time since I’d given it any attention and I noticed several things:
- The weeds were about to overtake the garden and the flowers were struggling to grow. Flowers that were free of nearby weeds had grown tall and full. Flowers that had weeds encroaching on them were still as small as the day I planted them and barely making it.
- Many of the weeds looked very similar to the flowers. I had to lean in and look close to discover the imposters. There were only slight variations to the shape of the leaves and the shade of green pigment. I’m fairly certain I was fooled by a few and left them there to grow.
- Some of the weeds had to remain for now. They had sprouted so close to the roots of the flowers I was afraid that in pulling them I’d damage the flower. I’m fairly certain I pulled a few perfectly good flowers by mistake.
- The weeds’ roots went deep. A two-fingered tug would not suffice. I often had to use a small shovel to loosen the soil and get at the base of it. Even still . . . some roots remained and I’m sure I’ll see those weeds return.
- It took tremendous effort to weed that small garden. I spent the morning bending and stooping, leaning and tugging, shoveling and hauling away the mess. I was sore for days. I wonder how much stronger would all those muscles be if I weeded and worked daily instead?
The similarities to the spiritual life are uncanny. If you didn’t catch them go back. Perhaps read Matthew chapter 13 in prayerful consideration.
To any Christian seeking to grow in holiness I challenge you: plant a garden! A real one. Tend it yourself. (Don’t hire out the work.) And let God speak.
Until I weeded that front garden on my own, the parables in scripture about weeds and wheat and about good soil and bad seemed a bit trite. I would read them, reflect on them, quickly ask the Lord to make me “wheat” or to have a heart of “good soil.” Then I’d go about my way until the next cycle or season of the Church in which we read those passages again.
That is the beautiful thing about gardens. They cannot be ignored until the next season. They need constant attention – so the flowers can grow, so the weeds can be identified, so the flowers can be preserved, so the weeds’ roots don’t dive so deep, so we are physically strengthened in our efforts.
Though often ignored, our souls need this same daily attention - so the virtues can grow, so the vices can be identified, so the growth can be preserved, so the grip of sin can be released, so we are spiritually strengthened in our constant efforts.
This Lent may we daily weed the garden of our soul. Lean in and look closely. Stoop and bend. (Humility is good for us!) Get out a shovel if you need to. Call on the Master Gardener. Make room for growth.
And do it all over again the next day, everyday, for the rest of your life. That is how we flourish.