I had noticed a few weeds poking through the mulch around my flowers in recent days. I decided to take a few minutes after dinner to pull them out, so I grabbed a trowel and a bucket. I yelled inside, "I'm going to pull weeds. Anyone want to join me?" No answer. Hmmm, guess this would be time to myself.
I uprooted the few green leaves around the front edge of my sidewalk. These weeds were the most visible, glaring at me each time I walked toward my front door. But as I got to my knees to do a bit more work, there were other patches of brown clover-like weeds, running low along the ground, slightly camouflaged in the mulch. I pulled them too, although they were a bit harder to see from a step away. I moved along, grabbing and plucking, digging and scraping. Some weeds grew up tall, trying to appear as an intended flower. I easily removed them out of the dirt with their roots intact. Others were low to the ground, vines connecting them under the soil. It was obvious they were not supposed to be there, but they were more difficult to eliminate fully.
As I worked, I remembered walking along my grandmother's flower beds as a child, helping her with the same tedious task. I asked her, "Mamaw, how do you know which ones are weeds and which ones are flowers?" She agreed that sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. Then she opened her hand to show me. "Let's pull the ones that look like this - not this," she said as she pointed out the distinctions between the two. My inexperienced eye could not see the difference, but hers could. She had been pulling weeds for many years, and I needed her wisdom in deciphering between them.
I moved between bent knee and bent back, sometimes even scooting along on my bum. My hands became dirty despite the gloves I wore, and my muscles already felt a bit tight. It was still 90 degrees outside, and sweat was gathering in too many places. This was not easy work, and it was taking longer than I expected. I didn't realize there were so many weeds until I began looking more intently. I finished the section by the sidewalk and started down the slope away from the porch, pulling a few unwelcome sprouts here and there. This area is not as readily visible because it falls away from the sidewalk, so, admittedly, I left more than I removed. Plus, if I kept going in that direction, I would eventually get around the lower corner of the house where there were many more unseemly and unwanted plants. I really didn't want to get into all that, so I pretended not to see those weeds. Maybe it wasn't the best decision, but I chose it nonetheless.
I walked to the front flowerbed where my irises bloomed just a few weeks ago. The leaves were still green and full. Hadn't I just pulled the weeds here? I guess the recent rain and sunshine created prime conditions for growth of all things. The flowering beauties and the little beasts. I considered overlooking the weeds in this section also. I mean, the perennials growing there are pretty large and mostly hide the ugly little plants. Perhaps no one would notice the intruders creeping under the lovelies. But, alas, I noticed. Now that I knew the weeds were there, I could not pretend I didn't. If I left them this time, next time they would be considerably larger, more repugnant, and more invasive into my blooms. The roots would be deeper and more difficult to remove. Best to do it now. So I looked earnestly under the lush green iris leaves, around the climbing clematis, beside the established euonymus shrub and the sweet little petunias, and I extricated the weeds. I kept searching and pulling and chopping and uprooting until the evil things were gone.
By the time I finished, I had a full bucket. Each weed was pretty small by itself, but together it was quite a bit. All of that ugly had been intruding into the beauty I originally intended, slowly disfiguring my garden and destroying its potential to grow and bloom. If I had left the unwanted plants, they would eventually overtake the other desirable ones, and the latter would never become all that they were created and intended for.
After I finished pulling weeds yesterday evening, I stood up and looked around. And I thought to myself...
Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Try me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
I didn't think there was that much work to do in my flower garden. I often do not think there is that much work to do in my heart, either. Beautiful things grow there for certain. But little wicked things poke through the surface as well. Sometimes the sins grow tall and obvious. Sometimes they are difficult to see unless you look closely. Often they grow much faster than I anticipate. Effort and sweat and intention are required to remove the sins (that is, offenses against God) which have the potential to wreck all that he created me to be.
I am convinced that God envisioned something beautiful when he planted me. So everlasting beauty is what I am trying to grow in my life and in my heart. But it will require getting rid of a lot of ugly things as they appear.
I'm going to pull weeds. Anyone want to join me?
***I encourage you to go back to the top of the page and re-read this post as an allegory, inserting "sin" into any word used for "weed." Let me know what you think.