The main garden bed in front of my home has been in a poor state for some time. The soil has eroded. Weeds have sprung up. Leftover roots from a bush that had been transplanted because it was not suitable to grow so close to the house as it could threaten the foundation had sprung new branches. Our busied lives and other distractions led us to neglect this garden bed.
Sure, I would dabble here and there at times to make sure the weeds hadn’t fully overgrown. However, due to long period of neglect it was going to require much time and effort to return my garden to a right state.
Today’s weather proved perfect for the task. (We can get serious heat and humidity in these parts.) I had some free time, so I decided it was well overdue and set to work. As I was digging up roots, pulling weeds and spreading out the new top layer I contemplated how my own spiritual life can mirror this garden.
Be Careful What You Plant
‘Be careful what you plant,’ I thought as I fought hard with the shovel and my gloved hands to break loose the roots of the bush. When I placed the bush there I had not considered its growing patterns and how its roots could work unseen underground and threaten the foundation of our home. I just wanted some greenery there that was pleasing to the eye and thought it would work well. Sometimes we do this in our spiritual life we may indulge in something very pleasing to the senses without first considering if it could have long term implications and potentially threaten our foundation. The remedy to this is mindfulness. Just as we consider what we allow in our gardens, we must also guard our eyes, ears, and minds because they are conduits to the soul.
‘Weeds Steal Nurtrients’
As I was completing the laborious task of pulling out all the weeds, I couldn’t help but notice how pale the soil appeared. The flowers and plants purposefully planted had died due to the poor state of the soil. I realized the weeds choked them out as they proliferated much easier and drained the nutrients from the soil the flowers needed to thrive. In order to maintain a healthy garden the garden tender must always be on the lookout for weeds. They start out just a few that creep into the garden. You walk by and notice a few and intend to make time to pull them knowing if not removed they will spread. However, if you get busy and they are not removed in a timely manner take over and the whole garden is at risk. Keeping the weeds out requires daily vigilance.
The garden of our soul requires daily attention as well. We have to be on guard for the creeping weeds of doubt, fear, jealousy, greed, pride, lust, or vengeance. They like the aforementioned weeds are slow invaders that creep up in a more palatable form. However if they are not immediately severed they may take root and choke out the fruits of the spirit. Thus we must be on guard. In order to spot those weeds immediately we must get stay connected to the vine and be in tune with the Gardener through the written word and prayer.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.John 15:1-4 NIV
A Fresh Start
So after much effort of pulling weeds, digging out roots, and raking dead leaves I was able to take some nutrient rich soil and mulch and spread it across the garden bed. I stepped back and looked at the freshly renewed garden. I was excited at the thought of a fresh start! However, I knew this time I needed to be mindful and carefully consider what I would plant, where it would be placed and when it should be planted. I am still in the planning phases but for now this empty garden bed is ripe with possibilties.
In tending our souls we may encounter some weeds that we realize were choking out the nutrition of our spiritual life. Remove those quickly and immediately. If you find some things have taken root that need to be dug out, do this prayerfully and with a trusted Christ follower to help support you. Once those weeds and roots are removed there is a void, an empty space that must be filled. Choose to fill it with good nourishing soil: the word of God, prayer, participation in the community worship, and the Holy sacraments. The prospective fruits of a well tended garden are promising. The ultimate reward is not only the grand meeting with the Gardner but while you wait for that grand meeting, you are invited to participate in harvesting some souls.
May you be fruitful and multiply peace, joy, and love! Happy gardening!