I’ve spent most of my adult life in the city. I like the feel of concrete under my shoes, the convenience of functioning public transportation and rubbing shoulders with people from all walks of life. Several years ago, my family needed to move. To be exact, our proprietor sold our apartment, and we ended up in the far reaches of the Paris metropolitan area, the Ile-de-France. There have been many adjustments, but one that continues to teach me about my personal sanctification has been growing a vegetable garden.
In the city, growing a garden on our balcony was a bit of a novelty.
We had great plans. I envisioned full, plump, ripe, red tomatoes and luscious, blossoming roses that wound their way around our window sills. And I probably imagined an accompanying accordion player in a beret and striped shirt too, because it is, after all, Paris. We took into account proper watering, soil, fertilizer, seeds, and my wife gave special attention to the right pots in the perfect style. What we didn’t account for was pigeons, pollution and my forgetfulness to water the plants.
The result was not very fresh tomatoes from the store and cut flowers brought in from the market. Not to mention many seedling plants replaced by healthier ones from the store in a never-ending cycle. Yet, one plant that never failed, was the taraxacum, also known as the dandelion. We lived on the tenth floor of an apartment on a major boulevard, and though I’ve never planted a weed, they always found a home on our balcony. Amazing. Even more, I remember walking one day on the Ile de La Cité in Paris, one of the oldest parts of the city going back to the Roman colony called Lutece. There I saw on a street that had been paved for thousands of years, sticking up her malicious, yellow head, the mocking presence of a dandelion. How does that happen?
Moving to our present location, I expected to see them, and they have in no way disappointed me. But what I was unprepared for was the diversity of weeds and the rapidity for their growth. Since moving here, we’ve planted a garden; my wife tends to the fully perfumed rosebush that greets us as we walk in our door, but they are not alone. I’ve stood in amazement looking at my garden, tilled a few weeks prior, the soil still soft and aerated, but because of other more important occupations keeping us away, all that I could see was a green carpet of various weeds and thistles that I never planted! What’s more, our garden was surrounded by almost waist-high, grassy weeds that seem to have overlooked our neighbor's garden, who at the time of my discovery, was diligently toiling away in his field.
This has given me much to reflect on as the Lord has used my physical garden to speak to me about the garden of my own heart and my life.
Weeds are tenacious. They don’t give up. From the rebellious city dandelion that defies thousands of years of urbanization, to the unrelenting green tide crashing over my radishes, I can be assured that there will be a fight. The problem is sometimes I don’t want to fight them back.
Sometimes it’s easier to be busy than to pull weeds, like it’s easier to be busy about ministry than applying the Gospel to my own heart.
I’ve learned to refer to the Greek text, compare it with my dictionaries, check it with a few experts, meditate on the passage and relate it to the Gospel and can do so without any impact on my own heart. It’s a sorry state of human sinful degeneration, but it’s true. And in that way, I can cultivate gorgeous fruit to offer others while weeds spring up in my heart.
Weeds choke out growth. They steal the nutrients, when they get too high, their shadow blocks the sunlight from the good plants, and they drink the rain that should go to my potatoes. The place I give in my life, to what I know doesn’t please God, takes away from the good things He wants to cultivate. I want the Spirit to water my soul, His Word to send the rich nutrients that will make me strong, and I want to lavish in His light. The weeds of sin must go, my old man must die so the new man can live and thrive.
Weeds are deceptive. At first they look green like everything we want to grow.
Some of them even produce beautiful delicate flowers, but if left too long, those yellow, fluffy cotton balls become a hideous white bomb of pollen and seeds bent on spreading their destruction to the other plants. The garden needs inspection. It’s not enough to glance at the soil and assume all is well. It's important to go and ask for forgiveness of those we hurt; it’s important to forgive from our heart those who hurt us. It’s good to not justify a word, look or act that may have an appearance of innocence on the surface but that our own conscience testifies wasn’t right.
In the end, my gardening meditations have been good exercise for my mind, heart and body (my arms were little sore the next day) because they bring me back to the Gospel in 1 Timothy 1:15-16, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life."
Jesus came to save me and to help me bear the fruit that will glorify Him forever. This means He will help me get rid of those weeds, help me cultivate my garlic. I need to be returning every day to be ministered by His grace, and He is faithful to complete His master gardening in my heart.