Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Garden Thoughts

I have been spending a lot of time in the gardens around my house lately, planning, planting and weeding what is already in place. My mind tends to wander as I weed and lately has been pondering the various weed species, their growth habits and how they spread. This year we are beset with two relative newcomers, hairy bittercress and one of the many chickweed species. Hairy bittercress, a particular problem in nurseries and garden centers, stands a few inches high, with delicate white flowers that have been blooming for a few weeks now, and has more or less taken over the ground in spots where it never used to be. The fact that each plant produces up to 5000 thousand seeds and can project them up to 4 feet from the parent plant aids in its travels, obviously. I have never had much of a problem with the chickweed before but this year it is wanting to blanket the ground wherever there is a patch of bare soil. It presents yet another new adventure in the ongoing resistance against an invading army bent on domination. One needs to try and assume a sense of humor when working with weeds, lest one lose his or her good nature and optimistic outlook.

One beneficial aspect of weeding is the opportunity to think about the similarities of weeds and their management to my own weaknesses and tendencies towards sin. The thought came to me as I was struggling with the pernicious ground ivy that has been a resident of our yard for the last 15 years or so. Every spring I tackle this pest in its various strongholds around the garden, knowing that I will be dealing with it for as long as I live in this location. After many years of gnashing my teeth and wasting a good bit of mental energy railing against its advance I have come to a point of acceptance. I am not going to eradicate the ground ivy from my yard. I am going to live with its challenges and its reminder to be vigilant for a long time to come and hoping it will just go away is folly. But that realization has brought me a bit of insight as well. The truth is that we all have areas in our lives that we will likely struggle with for as long as we live. They may be areas of particular temptations or attitudes, areas of self-doubt or pride, areas that are as unique as each one of us.

Some weeds are easier to eradicate than others. It doesn't take much time or effort to pull out a purple deadnettle plant. They don't send out runners and don't seem to shoot their seeds so far and though they do multiply, of course, they don't seem to do it with much abandon in my yard. They make me think of areas in my life that need attention. Once they are recognized as being harmful or problematic they are relatively easily uprooted and replaced with something beneficial. On the other hand, there are the deep-rooted weeds like dandelion and thistle that defy all but the most dedicated efforts to dig them out. That they are able to grow back from any piece of remaining root makes them all the more difficult to deal with. I have areas of life that are just as stubborn and unyielding as these tap-rooted invaders... areas that have such a deep hold that I first need to decide whether I want to exert the will and the effort to free myself from them. The good news is that, as with these plants, adequate determination, diligence and prayer can effectively remove whatever is causing the struggle, though sometimes the battle is long and wearing.

We are fallen people and there is no escaping the reality. I don't have to look farther than the ground ivy my yard to realize that some struggles are just going to be life long, and that is ok, actually. I take comfort in the realization that God knows me well, knows my strengths and my weaknesses, my triumphs and my failures. I know that He loves me with all of my struggles and my flaws and even with the parts of me that I cannot seem to pull out, try though I might. But I also know that He loves me too much to leave me in a defeated state. He is continually doing His own work of weeding and pruning and as I cooperate, I have become more fruitful, more aware and more intimate with the Vinedresser, Himself.

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