Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.Hosea 10:12
This verse really sums up well what I have been learning, especially through the opportunity we had this year to have a small garden.
I am not a gardener. At home, poor soil, cold summers, and wind combined to make gardening a futile effort, and after several years of battling against these things, my mother relented and gave up trying to grow vegetables, leaving just one flower bed that was sheltered from the wind.
I was very excited at the opportunity to have a garden here in Stoney Creek, but there were a lot of challenges.
First, we had to decide what to plant. Then we had to plant it – we were blessed to have a staff member till the garden for us, but I was not used to dealing with rabbits, who did their best to eat our beets and peas until we learned how to put chicken wire around them to keep the rabbits out. We also realized that we had planted our beets too close together and they were therefore rather stunted.
Then came the weeds.
At first, not being familiar with the differences between baby plants and weeds, I let both grow together. Then, having learned the difference, we cleared out the weeds.
Then came the portulaca. At home, portulaca is a lovely flower that people take great care to cultivate, but in Stoney Creek it is a dreadful weed. When it first came up, there were thousands of tiny plants, too tiny to possibly pull them all, so we let them grow. Soon, we were overrun.
It took a lot of work to get rid of the portulaca, and we ended up having to hoe out the rows, though of course by then the ground was hard so we were nigh unto needing a pickax. Needless to say, after that, we were more careful to pull them when they were small, however, as we didn’t have hours to spend each week in the garden, the best we could do was to keep hoeing the soil to keep it soft, as portulaca doesn’t like the soil that way.
There were many things that the Lord taught me about the spiritual life through this garden, and the weeds.
When I think about the fruit of the Spirit as plants trying to produce fruit, and the sins mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21 as weeds, I understand better, having tended a garden, how important it is to root out the weeds. Here are some things I have learned about weeds: both in the garden and in my own life.
They spread like crazy – just as weeds don’t need a special invitation to invade, when I allow one sin -say pride, however small, into my heart, it propagates more – envy, perfectionism, and more pride.
Just because you got rid of every last one last week doesn’t mean you get a pass on weeding this week – just because I repented of all of the little sins the Lord revealed to me, doesn’t mean that I automatically stop sinning or no longer need to repent.
Weeds take nutrients and moisture away from plants – the sin of pride hinders my prayers, and stunts the growth of the fruits of joy, patience, and peace in my heart.
Different environments produce different kinds of weeds – This was especially apparent to me with the portulaca. Portulaca especially likes to grow in hot places, with hard, dry soil. Where other plants struggle it thrives, and makes life harder for other plants. It likes desert-like conditions.
Some sins seem to grow in fertile hearts when everything is going well – such as self confidence, while others grow in stormy seasons – sins like doubt, despair, etc. Others, like portulaca, grow in the desert. These sins, as I have found in my own life, have been self-effort and complacency disguised as patience.
While in the Discipleship Program, I thought that I would grow exponentially in my spiritual walk, and I have grown, but I have also been (and still am) in a ‘dry spot’, and it’s been hard, because you’d think that surrounded by so many opportunities growth would come… easier. And in this dry season, I’ve noticed that different weeds, different sins than I struggled with before, have started to grow, and they’re hard to get rid of. Or perhaps they were always there, but now I know them to be weeds.
In the same way that we had to hoe the ground, to soften it to make it harder for the weeds to grow, the Lord has had to help me soften my heart. It’s hard work, and I don’t feel like I’ve made much progress some days. It hurts. It’s dusty and there’s still thousands of weeds. Some days a little rain comes, and I rejoice. Perhaps righteousness is a bit like potatoes, growing underground, unseen until harvest.