I love working in our yard. I love the planning, digging, planting, transplanting, fertilizing, pruning, tending, and watering. I love the green of the lawn and the colors of the flowers. I love buying and planting unlabeled 70 percent off plants in late fall and then wondering all winter, “What are they?” I love the fatigue and the aches that come from long hours spent working in our yard. Each season brings its own challenges and responsibilities and I enjoy every one of them, except for one—weeds.
Weeds are an every-season menace. In spring they emerge with fresh malice aforethought. In the summer they mockingly flourish while many other plants languish. They are relentless and everywhere. At times a kind of panic threatens to overcome me. Will they ever stop? No. Is there no end to them? Yes. Will I be pulling weeds to the end of my days? Maybe.
One particular weed troubles me greatly. It is deceptively small and adorned with a deceitfully pretty little white flower. But it is pernicious and profligate. If allowed to propagate, it will rapidly grow from an individual to an extended family to a village and then to a whole city. I don’t know its name. A landscaper friend calls them “pop-ups,” which is descriptive but not very botanical.
In my slightly (only slightly?) deranged obsession with these weeds I sometimes deny them a dignified demise in our green yard waste bin. Instead I leave them to die a slow withering death in the heat of the sun, perhaps thinking their desiccated remains will deter other weeds.
I know more thoughtful and philosophical gardeners would tell me weeds are part of God’s creation and, after all, the plants we enjoy today were once considered weeds. I guess. But I’m not buying it. I prefer what Jesus said about weeds.
Being vigilant about a roaring lion appeals to me
more than being vigilant about weeds.
In Matthew 13, in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said, “The seed falling among the thorns (weeds, in my view) refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.”
If I am not vigilant about the weeds in my yard, they will steal water and nutrients from the plants I am nurturing and choke the beauty I am trying to grow. But the Parable of the Sower is not about the weeds in my garden; it is about the weeds in my life. Jesus tells me if I am not vigilant about “worries of this world” and “deceitfulness of wealth” and, I would add, the other invasive sins that so easily take root in my life, they will choke the beauty God wants to grow in and through me.
The imagery of invasive, choking weeds is vivid and instructive, but it is not the only admonition to vigilance in the New Testament. For example, 1 Peter 5:8 offers another, perhaps more vivid, call to vigilance: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
I confess, being vigilant about a roaring lion appeals to me more than being vigilant about weeds. To be alert and sober-minded about a prowling predator seems more heroic, more decisive, and less tedious than watching out for weeds. I’d rather be known as a victorious lion tamer than a meticulous weed puller. But I know myself well enough to understand that while I need to be alert for the reality of prowling lions, it’s the ever-present, ever real, ever “popping up” weeds in my life that will more likely require of me a commitment to every day, every moment vigilance.