I spent the day Saturday working in the flower beds cleaning up debris and pulling weeds. I have a lot of beds and there are lots of weeds thriving out there. Whenever I spend any length of time pulling and digging and wrestling and cultivating to get rid of weeds I can't help thinking of how they are so like sin. As I pull and dig and wrestle and cultivate I ruminate on how all the different types of weeds are like so many different ways sin penetrates our lives.
The first comparison is obvious - pulling weeds is like rooting out sin; we must get to the very bottom of things in order to triumph. As I always tell my garden helpers, it does no good to just pull off the top of the weed -we must use our 'poker' and dig down deep to get all the root out in order to be able to hope the offender is gone, never to return.
Some weeds have one main tap root, strong and slender and steep, but when you've dug far enough and pulled hard enough you get it all out, and it shouldn't come back.
Other weeds have myriad clusters of branching roots; the leafy green growth above ground is nothing compared to the far reaching labyrinth of roots underneath. How can one weed have such far reaching intricate root systems branching out in so many directions? Even after pulling out the weed, and a fair bit of the main root system, you still find root clumps here and there. Broken off bits of leftovers from the main, still mixed in the good earth.
Some weeds are menacing just to look at, and their prickly spikes leave no doubt they are nasty weeds and must go.
And then there are other weeds that do a wonderful job of looking like something else, pretending to be something benign or even desirable.
We can be tricked by their likeness to good things, but looking very closely we can see they are only fakes. Sometimes it takes a while to spot the difference. We can spend a long time trying to figure it out, waiting for the good fruit or flower that never comes.
Then there are the plants that started out as something nice. We may have even planted them on purpose, charmed by their sweet flowers or pleasing scents. But then they take over and become invasive, reaching and penetrating and reproducing where they don't belong, choking out all else, and what started as a good thing has become despised by its very tenacity. And now it's a weed, and it's got to go. And we start to dig and we are astounded at how pervasive it has become, spreading further and further where it was never intended to be.
Some plants send out impossibly long underground runners and then new shoots form all along the hidden invaders. Innumerable little bitty replicas of the original, everywhere. It's so hard to dig out every last one, and it can seem hopeless we'll ever get them all. Some sin can seem to 'travel underground', reaching far and surfacing now and again when and where we least expect it.
Then there are the weeds that are so much more difficult to remove after they've been ignored. They grow and blossom and then bear seeds that are dispersed into so many areas far and wide. It would have been much easier and wiser to 'nip it in the bud', but laziness and procrastination and even denial work together to let them flourish and multiply.
And when those weed seeds sprout, they may seem so tiny and insignificant, but there are oh so many of them and they seem to spring up everywhere. It's quite a job to grasp at all their little offspring that came forth from the one parent weed. If we let but one sin go unattended, we can be left dealing with its repercussions for a long, long time.
When gardening, I think of how I work and work removing all the weeds in one area and then I sit back at look at what I thought was all clear. But having removed the big weeds, I can now see clearer and all the little weeds I missed are visible, just as Confession clears the soul so we can more clearly see the faults within.
It's hard work weeding. Unused muscles ache, arms get prickled and scratched and dirt gets under the fingernails. It can tire a person out. We can get excited by our progress and the next minute get discouraged by how very much more work there is to do.
And weeding is of course only part of tending the garden. Establishing lovely flowers and useful fruits and vegetables crowd out the weeds and keep them from taking over. The more the garden is filled with the good and the beautiful, the less of a chance the undesirables have to ever take hold.
These are the things I ponder as I work in my garden beds.