I’ve done it! As of May 22, 2016, my garden is finally complete. After what has amounted to about a month of prep and piecemeal plantings through busy schedules, unseasonable weather, and allergy / sinus issues, I’ve sown my last seed into the rich, tilled and fertile ground. A little water, some well-wishes for my little plant-babies to grow big and strong and produce a bountiful harvest and I can coast from here til July, right? I can now just sit back and observe, can’t I? If only that were true!
In reality, the work has just begun and I’ll argue that the planting is the easy part. There was certainly a good amount of work that needed to be taken care of in order for the garden to be ready for the plant visitors. This year, our soil needed a bit of a boost so we had to mix in some good, nutrient-rich mushroom soil and some fresh top soil in with our current, tired ground. After tilling and mixing that all together, the plants should have a great place to root. But now that the plants have been given a home and the seedlings are nestled in their beds, the next phase of garden-keeping begins… maintenance. Maintenance can be summed up with one main goal: keep the intruders out!
As much as I love to be outside watching the plants bud, blossom, and produce, one of my least favorite activities is weeding. By nature, I’m a task person. I’m a check the box kind of gal. I make lists and thoroughly enjoy placing that checkmark on the page when I’m done so I can admire all I accomplished.
Unfortunately, weeding is: S L O W.
And if I don’t get to it in time, it’s even slower. Sometimes weeding is painful. There really is no comfortable position to sit or crouch in. Mere seconds pass and I’m already at the “am I done yet??” phase. But there is one thing that motivates me despite the lack of immediate progress – the growth of good fruit.
But why get rid of the weeds at all? Why not just let them grow side by side and worry about them later? Well, weeds are not gracious cohabitants. They basically want to invade and conquer. They grow fast and suck the nutrients out of the ground that should be used for the fruit plants to produce abundantly. If I don’t push through the pain and tediousness of the maintenance step, the garden won’t be as fruitful. My harvest will be smaller. All the work put into prepping and planting will yield only a fraction of its possibilities. And… the weeds are not as pretty (at least not the ones in my garden!) So it’s important that they go away.
In the same way, weeds threaten us every day in many different ways. And depending on our environment, upbringing, and lifestyle, the weeds of life can be extremely dangerous and all but choke out the fruit that is ours to enjoy. So life cannot be a mere spectator sport just as we can’t watch the garden get overrun from the other side of the fence. We need to keep a wary eye, get to know our fruit plants, be able to identify the imposters, and then dig in and remove them.
Weeds in life come in many types – just a few are:
-self-doubt and low self-image
-not “measuring up” to society standards
-unhealthy competition for status, titles, and possessions
-“friends” who aren’t encouraging or motivating
-negative news or health reports
Some weeds are easy to pull up. The roots are superficial or maybe it’s a young weed that hasn’t had time to take up residence yet. With little effort, we can remove those threats. Others, however, need a lot of attention - sometimes a lot of wrestling before we can pull out the root. And it’s important to get the root and not just break off the leaves because it will only come back – and quickly. Those weeds take a lot of work – introspection – analysis – digging into past hurts to find the root of why it has such an effect on our lives. But we don’t have to fight the weeds bare-handed. We have tools at our disposal.
The greatest and most powerful tool we have is prayer. Pray about ANY and EVERY situation. While we are tempted to ask for a quick and easy victory, that may not be what is needed to remove the weed. Don’t always pray that the outcome will be as we want it to be; rather, pray that our growth would be evident at the end of the battle. Though it may take a while and leave us exhausted at times, the end result will yield great benefits in our lives.
Another helpful tool is counseling. There are wonderful people that can help us sort through some of the tangled roots so we can better eradicate the intruder. It shows courage to seek out Godly counsel and to always remain humble and teachable. God will reveal His will through many different channels – be open to words of wisdom while discerning His purpose for your life through it.
Develop healthy boundaries. Not everyone who feigns to be our friends are truly friends. A simple test is this: when you are with that person, do you feel strengthened, encouraged, valued, or loved? 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” Or do you leave feeling drained, weak, used, worthless? If it is the latter, walk away. God calls us to love everyone and see others through His lens, but He does not expect us to be close with everyone or stay in unhealthy relationships. It is not ok to be someone else’s doormat or to allow them to negatively influence our actions or judgment. 1 Cor 15:33 says “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” Be wary, say no, stand your ground, and form solid friendships with loving people.
The process of weeding is difficult. It takes tough decisions, commitment, and deep heart changes. Yes, that will cause some pain. No, it will not be easy. But it is all worth it. WE are worth it. Keep the goal in mind – good, bountiful fruit. Gal 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” A testimony of your character and heart. A testimony of God’s love for you and others. Persevere through the maintenance phases and in time, you will see that you’ll reap great rewards.