Garden-variety God-thoughts: weeding

Here’s today’s hypothesis: there are two ways to rapidly and richly deepen your understanding of the Bible:

1. Go to seminary

2. Work in your garden.

Many of the most wonderful things I have learned about the Bible I learned in the classroom yard. The professor of my bible college (seminary, in US speak) taught classes on the gospels and frequently told us: “you MUST become familiar with the idiom of your King.”

He was right: Jesus’ teachings are RICH with agricultural illustrations and applications, and in the past few years while my hands were deep in muck, I’ve found my mind deep in thought . One might even say that “God walks with me in the cool of the garden” (really, it’s more in the heat, and really my garden is not Eden… but the Teacher sure gardens beside me.)

So here is the first of my garden-variety God-thoughts: dealing with sin really is like pulling weeds. weeds

I thought weeds were a biblical illustration of “garden annoyances”, until I actually had a garden and had to deal with them. Weeds are not minor annoyances. They are pernicious, pervasive, persistent things. Given a little time, a little light and just the smallest amount of space – they spring up. They do not require the attention and nurture which my fruitful plants do to thrive, they grow all on their own. They choke the good things I am trying to cultivate.

Some have deep roots, some have wide-spread shallow ones. Either way, they require specific, singular attention to be removed. The sooner, the better. And most frustrating of all – the same weeds keep appearing in my garden. They require regular attention. Weeding is not a once-off process: those darn things sprout up everywhere! Again and again!

I had thought that gardening would involve hours of lovingly nurturing beautiful green things to look at and enjoy, but I’m surprised at how much time in garden is spent rooting out the unwanted things just to give the beautiful things a chance to take root.

No wonder Jesus warned us that sin was like weeds.

Sins are not minor annoyances: they are pernicious, pervasive, persistent things. Given just a little time and a little space, bad habits and selfish thoughts spring up. They don’t require the attention and nurture which is takes to cultivate character and good habits – the bad habits grow all on their own. Funny how I spend so much time teaching my children to do the right thing, but the bad things they learn all on their own.

Some of my sins have deep roots (self-centeredness, jealousy), some have wide-spread shallow ones (covetousness) – but either way, they require regular attention and confession. The sooner, the better. And most frustrating of all – the same sins keep appearing in my heart. Again and again. Reading my journals of twenty years ago, ten years ago reveals some growth but it also reveals a pattern: the same weeds keep appearing in my soul. But the good news? They’re thinning out over time. I know what the seedlings look like and I can deal with them faster. They’re there, but I’m getting better at rooting them out, to give the beautiful things a fighting chance at taking root.

Let’s keep working the soil soul, friends.

Hebrews 12:1 So let us get rid of the sin which so easily entangles…

 

14 thoughts on “Garden-variety God-thoughts: weeding

  1. Yes, so true!! I get the same kind of thoughts when I garden. Especially when I’m pruning. Cutting away the old so the new — and more fruitful — can grow. Beautiful imagery. Love you Bon!

  2. Is it any wonder that Jesus’ first appearance after the resurrection was in the guise of a gardener? Great reflection today, Bronwyn!

  3. Bronwyn, the weed and sin comparison is an excellent one. I dislike any theology that doesn’t take sin seriously, and I agree that it is pernicious, pervasive, persistent. Thanks for this post.

    To go off on a slight rabbit trail. One of my theology professors always emphasized the importance of theology being practical to life. In fact almost any paper we wrote had to have what he called a “so what” section at the end where you shared how the theology was going to impact your life and/or ministry.

    • When I was teaching college bible studies, I entitled all the final discussion (application) questions on our studies “so what??” At first it took the students by surprise as it seemed perhaps a little disrespectful, but it grew to be our favorite part of the discussion šŸ™‚

  4. Now, I have NEVER been one with the green thumb. After all, cacti died in my family, and not from over watering, but the opposite, mind you. What does that say about me as a believer?! (Such a sad thought…)

    • Oh Grace, I used to brag about my “black thumbs”, as opposed to the green fingers my mom has. But when we moved into our first house and all of a sudden we had a yard to take care of, i was forced out into the garden. Turns out, real gardens are harder to kill than potted plants šŸ™‚ and as for what it says about you as a believer, well, the point of it all is fruitfulness isn’t it? And I’ve seen some love, joy, peace, patience in you….

  5. Oh yes, about those deeply rooted sins that remain in my journals year after year, why are they so difficult to pull out of my life? I wish I knew. I do my best to work my soil, but ultimately God must pull the weeds. Maybe the best we can do is to keep our hearts soft and yield to the pulling. Wonderful post!

    • Thanks Judy. Great point: we are responsible to keep the soil of the soul soft… Not like rocky ground, the path, the weedy ground…. Hey, that sounds familiar!

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  7. Teresa of Avila speaks of a garden metaphor for the work of sanctification in the book on her life. She says that the soul is the garden and Christ the gardener. He does the work and our work is to be open to his work in us. She also has a great metaphor for the ways in which a garden is watered and the felt experience of nourishment and growth of the soul. Anytime I am tempted to grow myself, I am reminded of her. Loved your thoughts. Thanks.

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