All of the women in my family have beautiful gardens—filled with little white roses and pink peonies and big, blue hydrangea bushes. In the past, they’ve grown giant okra and watermelon and eight-foot-tall sunflowers. There’s usually an endless supply of fresh flowers and blooming, climbing jasmine.
I, however, did not inherit their green thumb. I love the idea of having a flower-filled garden. In this ideal garden, I could wander out and trim roses to put in a vase on the dinner table, or watch the ivy and jasmine climb up the side of the house, making our little brick house look more beautiful with every bud.
In this scenario, I would also always have an empty laundry basket and be able to fly.
But the thing is: I hate gardening. I do not enjoy working in the yard in 90-degree weather (which it almost always is in Alabama). It’s not that I don’t enjoy the outdoors-- I do. Laying by the pool? I could do that all day. Playing fetch with our pup in the backyard? Give me a tennis ball. Reading outside in the shade on our daybed? Yes, please. I love going on hikes and watching the sun set.
But pulling weeds while dripping sweat and throwing them in an orange bucket? No thank you. My allergies do not help with the matter. I get all itchy and sniffling and angry.
Kevin does yard work regularly and selflessly. I love him and resent him for it. He had been gently reminding me that I was in charge of the flowerbeds for a few weeks, and I had been gently ignoring him.
To be honest, I’m pretty good at ignoring things that I don’t want to deal with. The other day, Kevin returned from his work trip and immediately asked about the oversized limb that had fallen off the tree in our front yard.
“When did that limb fall?” he asked.
“Huh. I didn’t notice it there.” I replied.
“How do you not notice a giant limb in the literal middle of the yard?”
“I don’t know. I just didn’t see it.”
I have supernatural powers when it comes to ignorance.
So it’s no surprise that I didn’t put too much thought into the fact that our rose bush was dying at a rapid rate or notice the bright green shoots of weeds that were slowly conquering the flowerbeds.
But one Saturday morning I vowed to pull weeds to save my husband’s sanity. I changed into my tank and workout pants, turned on Johnnyswim Pandora on my iPhone, and pulled on my pink gardening gloves. I headed out with my bucket and began to tackle the worst of the beds.
It was overwhelming at first. The weeds were lined up like a small army, row after row, staring me down by their infinite numbers. But one by one, I started pulling.
Some of them were easy to pull up, and I hardly had to exert effort. But some were rooted deeply, like they were holding on with tight fists to the small patch of earth they inhabited. Some of the weeds were disguised as little flowers, and they almost convinced me to keep them around. Almost, but not quite.
Most of them gathered around the bases of the bushes, slowly trying to overtake them completely. This army of weeds wanted to be the star of the flowerbeds, and they wanted to kill everything in its path of domination.
And weed by weed, I was defending my little landscape, filling up bucket after bucket of the pesky invaders.
I had let it go on too long, I told myself.
Much like my sins, I had ignored them and they were multiplying rapidly. They were disguising themselves as being good, like the little purple flowers, but they were really trying to overtake anything that was good.
Like selfishness or jealousy or bitterness, they were taking root and gripping on tightly-- and one by one, I finally had to face them head-on.
I was pulling weeds, thinking about sins and Jesus and eternity, when I heard a voice right behind me and I jumped three feet in the air.
I was so busy thinking about weeds and sins and analogies, I hadn’t noticed my neighbor walking up the driveway.
Darn you once again, blissful ignorance.
I chatted with my neighbor briefly and vowed to myself to stop ignoring and start noticing. I thought about the truth in The Screwtape Letters, when the demon Screwtape comments to his trainee, Wormwood:
“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: In reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
Satan wants to keep us out of churches; he wants to keep us away from the hurting and heartaches surrounding us. And that sin that keeps popping up in your life? He wants you to ignore it, to push it deep down until you no longer even think about it as sinful. The devil is rooting for us to ignore the weeds in our lives, wanting us to be overtaken without realizing it's happening.
But the more we ignore the weeds, the more they multiply and the deeper they take root. We have to address our sins and notice when we stray off the path of Jesus, even slightly. We must constantly confess our selfishness and inadequacies, remaining open to delight in His merciful love.
We must face those weeds head-on with our orange buckets in hand, and then allow God to uproot them.