More Reflections from the garden
Last week I finished the arduous task of preparing my soil for planting. I ran out of time to actually get it planted before taking off for the holiday weekend and when I finally got back out there yesterday I was dismayed to see a garden full of weeds! How did they grow so big so fast??? Seriously. I dug them out by the roots myself and would have sworn they were gone for good. Maybe they are brand new weeds that blew in on Thursday and were full-grown by Tuesday? What gives?? And the little patch that I had planted with seeds a few weeks back finally sprouted some fragile little plants but the weeds I thought I had yanked out were well established and towering over my budding seedlings. Needless to say, I was more than a little bummed and completely frustrated.
This phenomenon reminds me of the bad habits and sins in our lives. Our bad habits, like weeds, can lead to sin without our even noticing and left growing unchecked, they get established and develop a root system that can sometimes drown out the fragile seedlings of faith and good works we are trying to establish in our lives. The fruit bearing plants take careful nurturing while the weeds require systematic and consistent digging out. And it’s a lot of work!!
If I didn’t know better I would think there was some evil force waiting for me to turn my back on my garden so the seeds of destruction could be sown…
Some of the weeds I had to pull were actually flowering and pretty. I kind of hated to kill them by pulling them out. Had they been in a flowerbed there may have been a place for those flower weeds but unfortunately not in my vegetable garden. Isn’t it true that we can get caught up in something – not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself – but bad because it gets out of hand, or becomes consuming or simply takes away from doing something more constructive. For me it’s researching my ancestry. Filling in the family tree is certainly not a bad or wrong thing to do. In moderation it’s very enjoyable, real life detective work, and even offers a perfect opportunity to pray for those who have gone before. When the researching becomes so consuming, however, that I don’t want to take care of responsibilities, then I have to consider it a weed. It has a place, just not in my schedule. In the parable of the barren fig tree (Lk 13:6-9), Jesus equates the fig tree with a weed. It hasn’t produced fruit in 3 years and therefore has no place in the vineyard. Even though it appears to be a perfectly good tree the owner cuts it down. Sometimes we really have to make those tough cuts so that we can bear fruit. If we allow Him, God does that pruning work in us all the time!
There are also times in my daily life that I get busy and a little overwhelmed with inside duties but I know those weeds are calling me, pulling me out to the garden. If I look I will have no choice but to drop everything and run straight to it. So when I just can’t face it, what do I do? I simply don’t go there. I avoid it until I know I can spend some time really digging out those weeds. Weeds that are now bigger and deeper and stronger and actually require tools to adequately remove rather than the more manageable little weeds I could have just plucked out with my fingers.
In a similar way a daily examination of conscience and recognition and repentance of our sinful behaviors can go a long way toward cleaning out the ‘garden bed’ of our souls. Some weeds, however, are so intricately woven under the soil and full of thorns they can’t simply be plucked out without a little help.
As Catholics we have the tremendous privilege of a sacramental ‘weeding’ if you will. I am often pleasantly surprised by the wise counsel I receive in the confessional, by the loving exchange that puts my soul at the center of priestly concern. Sometimes I don’t even know exactly why I’m there, there’s just a vague sense that I’ve disappointed and hurt my Lord and the priest and I figure it out together. And then comes that most beautiful grace-filled moment of absolution, when the priest says, “By the power of Christ, I absolve you of your sins”, when my garden does not have a single weed in the entire thing, when nothing but fruitful seedlings are growing and flourishing. It’s my moment of Eden. I glory in it. I live for it. I praise my Lord for the gift of it. I’ve been washed clean by the blood of the lamb. I feel it and the priest tells me it is so and I simply know it. I have a clean slate, a perfect garden.
– for a time.