I knelt on the side of the raised garden bed pulling the weeds from the moist ground. My hair whipped in my face; I should have pulled it back before my hands got dirty. The spring afternoon sun warmed my back and shoulders, reminding me that winter was really, truly gone from Ohio.
I am one of the few that enjoy pulling weeds. The dirt under my fingernails, the excuse to be outside in the sun, the time to be alone and think. As I pulled the weeds in the strawberry bed I thought about how our sins are like weeds. I’m not just talking about the obvious fact of their being unwanted blights in our life; there are actually many parallels to be made between our faults and the undesirable bits of growth invading our gardens.
Weeds disturb our plans.
Nobody plans for weeds in their garden. A weed, by its very definition, is a plant growing where it is not wanted. No gardener plans a line of tomatoes, and a row of peppers, separated by a stretch of prickly, green weeds. Our sins invade our lives in the same way. We do not think when we wake up, “Today I will spend my morning reading the Bible, then after lunch I will dabble in a bit of gossip, lust, and greed.” Too often though, that’s exactly what happens.
You see, sins don’t ask permission to make an appearance; they simply slip into our lives, foiling our plans of virtue. Paul says it well in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Sins steal uninvited into the most faithful of Christian lives.
Weeds and flowers grow close together.
It is a great mystery to me why a weed would want to grow so close to a flower. If I were a weed I would grow far away from anything else, so that I would have room to thrive on my own. It seems though that weeds love to entangle themselves with the precious garden plants, making their roots and the roots of the harvest nearly indistinguishable. I find my vices and virtues entangling in this same way.
It took me years to see that in my life I have both the virtue of peacefulness and the vice of spinelessness. In my desire to promote goodwill between all people, I often find that I am not standing up for what matters or speaking up for truth. I believe God makes areas look “grey” here on earth so that we will have a need to seek Him daily.
Because we aren’t given an obvious list of dos and don’ts in every area of life, good can be masked as undesirable, and evil can masquerade as beauty. We are told to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12). Just as we have to lean back to move the shadows and let the sun illuminate the difference between the entangled roots, we must always have our face turned towards the Son so that we can know what He desires to see in our life.
Even once you have found the roots, weeds are hard to remove.
It always seems that the root systems of weeds are twice as strong as their vegetable counterparts. Just when I think that I have the root firmly under my grasp, I pull, and all I get is leaves. The visible part of the plant is removed, but the root is still in perfect condition, hidden away under the soil to come back with a vengeance in its own time. Sins are easy to mask; they are easily swept under the rug and forgotten until someone uncovers them. It is one thing to keep our faults hidden from the world, but quite a different thing to abolish them entirely.
Time and effort are required to kill weeds.
Left to care for themselves weeds will flourish. They have the unique ability to thrive with no attendance. Unfortunately, unlike our precious crops, when left to their own devices they multiply and thrive. Tomatoes, spinach, and carrots need love and care to grow well, but weeds left unattended will still grow tall and strong. People left unchecked will do much the same. Their vices will abound, and their virtues will shrivel and die. Yet Jesus does not leave us without hope. In 1 John 1:9 we are told that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Spring is here.
It’s time to plan your garden. In fact, you’ll have to hurry now if you want time to sprout your seeds properly. Flowers don’t like to be rushed, and vegetables don’t take kindly to being thrust into weedy soil and told to produce fruit. Look in the depths of your heart; grab a few weeds, dig up the roots, leave no chance for re-growth. And in your newly vacant character plant some virtues. As long as you keep them in the Son, they’ll grow just fine.