Weeds

imageI especially love to pull up crabgrass; there is something about that particularly pernicious weed that reminds me of sin. It starts as an innocuous looking sprout with just a couple of tender green leaves. If it is left to feed on just a little bit of water and sunlight, it creeps outward, snaking about the good plants in a way that is just barely perceptible. Before long, the crabgrass smothers all that was beautiful in a tangled green mess of dense, thick and ropey vegetation. When crabgrass reaches this stage, only the most radical solution remains available: Hacking up the whole garden and pitching out the good plants with the bad.


Dear Alexandria and Mary Ellen,

You’ll probably recall me having you weed the yard. Normally, this activity was carried out despite your most ardent protests. Let’s face it: Menial garden chores are not on the list of most loved activities, especially if you are 11 and 14. But, generally speaking, so long as I provided some monetary motivation and perhaps the ability to listen to some music, you generally did a pretty acceptable job at clearing out the flower beds. They are too sparsely planted at present, which makes the ubiquitous North Carolina crabgrass a constant enemy.

I’m not a good gardener. I don’t know a thing about it. I can carry out the chores and such, but I have always lacked an eye for making a landscape beautiful. My German grandmother had that eye; she could stretch out a half an acre to seem as wild and beautiful as Kipling’s jungle. I don’t think anyone ever taught her a thing about landscaping; she could just look at some pots of plants and a piece of ground and just know how it needed to be. In a way, despite the chaos that defined most of her life, she was a bit like our Heavenly Father when she was in her gardens: Deliberate, caring, murmuring soft loving words to those plants and beaming with affection when her creation took root and bloomed. She made it, and It Was Good. I wish I had that ability in my garden and in my life.

Just like my much of my life, my gardening is a generous helping of happenstance, a dose of hard work and more than a soupçon of luck. I have a tendency to get a general and overly lofty idea in mind. Then I set to work with an incomplete idea about what the hell it is that I am doing. I barge about the yard in a series of angry collisions with clay, dirt, mulch and shrub until I get something that approximates the idea I had to begin with, only much less beautiful; think here of an office park instead of an English garden. It is a demonstration of one element of the human condition: We can conceive great beauty (we can perceive God himself), but we tend to fall well short in execution.

But I do love to weed. There is something that is therapeutic about it for me. I especially love to pull up crabgrass; there is something about that particularly pernicious weed that reminds me of sin. It starts as an innocuous looking sprout with just a couple of tender green leaves. If it is left to feed on just a little bit of water and sunlight, it creeps outward, snaking about the good plants in a way that is just barely perceptible. Before long, the crabgrass smothers all that was beautiful in a tangled green mess of dense, thick and ropey vegetation. When crabgrass reaches this stage, only the most radical solution remains available: Hacking up the whole garden and pitching out the good plants with the bad.

But if you are vigilant and can find the crabgrass early, you can pull it up so as not to disturb the pretty plants nearby. In the act of pulling the weed out by its roots, you disturb the soil just enough to allow the warmth of the sun and the goodness of a gentle rain to stimulate new growth. A little vigilance, a light tug and some dirt beneath your nails… Then you might just have a garden that will put a smile on your face and a little peaceful joy in someone else’s heart.

Sin is just like crabgrass. It starts as a barely perceptible sprout. Unless it is pulled out early, sin works it’s way in and around the most tender parts of your soul. It isn’t that sin is always such a bad deed; it might be something that is acceptable to everyone else. Sin is whatever weed that smothers your compassion and hardens your heart to love. Sin chokes out God’s light and the connection you share with His creation.

I hope you find some time to weed the garden of your life as you get older. I wish I had started so much earlier on mine.

I found out today that your Grandfather (Babbo) has Parkinson’s disease. I haven’t told you yet. I’m pretty heavy of heart, and I know you can sense it. I think I’ll go weed and pray.

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