I am a terrible gardener. Trust me when I say that if any kind of plant stays alive in my house or yard, it’s by the mercy of the Lord. It shouldn’t be surprising seeing as how gardening held no interest to me my entire life, despite my mother’s amazing skills at growing things.
But this year, I wanted to get better. I wanted to dig in the dirt and plant things and experience the joy of watching life unfold before my very eyes. In fact, I had visions of one day having a lush garden in my backyard – hence the reason I started seeing ads on social media for “The Sustainable Backyard.” I was like, woah, calm down. I was just thinking about growing some strawberries and flowers. We’ll save the sustainable backyard for next summer.
So, I went plant shopping with my mom at the beginning of April, cleared the flower beds, nestled the flowering plants into the ground, dug the bulbs into neat little arrangements, put the strawberry plants in the planters, and started watering.
Well, I didn’t water enough, as I got one strawberry out of all five plants before they died. I blame that more on the lack of rain in April and May, though.
But the bigger problem soon became evident. And that was my fight with the weeds.
I thought I would stay on top of them. I thought, “Every time I take the dog out in the morning, I’ll just pull out the little sprouts, and it won’t be a problem.” That went well for a bit.
Then I went on vacation for ten days, and when I came back, it was obvious that the weeds knew I was gone. They had come to party, and they had come to stay. I dealt with the ones in the front yard first, since those were most visible and embarrassing to anyone walking by.
But the ones in the backyard along the fence? They were too overwhelming to deal with. So I didn’t. And they continued to grow bigger and bigger. And when I finally made myself go out there to start pulling them, their roots had gone deep.
And as I wrestled with those noxious weeds, I couldn’t help but think how applicable this analogy was to real life and to my own heart. I’d heard this analogy before as a kid (wasn’t there a Veggie Tales story about it, maybe?), but the reality of pulling weeds out of my flower beds made it so much more tangible as I started thinking about the weeds of sin in my own heart.
How many times do I see little sprouts of sin start growing in my heart, and I choose to ignore them? I deal with the obvious ones that everyone can see because it would be too embarrassing to let those ones flourish. But the ones in the “backyard” of my heart I figure aren’t a big deal.
And the more I don’t deal with them, the deeper their roots grow until they have become too large to ignore.
The roots of anxiety, pride, bitterness, jealousy, and lust all start with the smallest of thoughts. A thought comes to mind and instead of dealing with it – confessing it as sin and turning from it through the Lord’s strength, I either push it away or I nurture it by thinking about it more.
And the root goes deeper, and the weed grows taller. And before I know it, my reactions become sinful, my speech becomes callous, my heart starts justifying it, and the weed of sin is much harder to remove at that point.
Rather, if I had dealt with the root of sin when it first sprouted, it would have been much easier.
For example, wandering the aisles of Hobby Lobby immediately makes clear how much I idolize pretty things. And the more I imagine how each pretty thing would look in my house, the more I convince myself that I deserve those things, and discontentment starts to grow – until I’m standing in line with my one thing I came in to get, feeling unhappy that I don’t have more things.
This is the moment I need to deal with the root of covetousness. I need to confess to the Lord that I’m looking to stuff to satisfy my heart instead of him. I need to repent of idolizing things, turn to the cross where Christ died for that sin, and ask along with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways” (Ps. 119:36-37).
This doesn’t mean that I’ll never long for pretty things again. Just like the weeds in my yard that sprout back up after I’m done weeding, my sin will return and have to be dealt with.
But unlike weeding our yards, dealing with the weeds in our hearts will, over time, draw us closer to Christ. The more often we recognize our need for him and run to him for forgiveness and grace, the more deeply we will love him, and the more our hearts will become like him.
And this is why it’s worth it to relentlessly pull out the weeds of sin in our hearts. We can’t change ourselves by vicious self-control or guilt-laden acts of penance. However, Christ our Messiah can and will change our hearts when we come to him throughout the day, confessing the roots of sin that are constantly springing up.
So we sing along with this song – “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy on us” – and he does. He has such mercy on us.
And the weeds are cleared. And once again we can see the beautiful garden of holiness that he’s growing in our hearts.