As I have spent more time gardening in the past year than ever, I’ve learned some valuable lessons about weeds that look like flowers to the untrained eye and how they smother the good things I’ve planted. Fortunately, I have a gardener friend who helped me rescue our family’s garden by pointing out those flowering weeds that needed to be removed so that the fruits, vegetables, and flowers could grow and thrive.
It’s difficult these days to stay connected to nature and the lessons we learn from growing things. We often forget that whatever we plant in the soil of our lives will grow. We live in a culture ripe with criticism and anger that is rooted in fear and our differences of opinion. You may be dealing with this ugly growth in your community right now. Following Christ, loving our neighbor, and being ministers means we must keep our hearts open, which also makes us vulnerable to being wounded. When those hurts come, it is easy to embrace them and let them take root like weeds in the garden of our spiritual life.
When I consider what the Bible has to say about this, I remember how God grew a “weed” to shade his servant Jonah as he looked over Nineveh in bitterness. I’m reminded of Joseph and how he harbored resentment toward his brothers. And how Moses’s hostility toward the Egyptians led to him to murder. It’s interesting that just as those weeds in my garden looked flowery and appealing, any rational person would think that Jonah, Joseph, and Moses had appealing reasons to feel the way they did. The Assyrians were extremely cruel, Joseph’s brothers tried to kill him, and Moses’s violence seemed defensible.
Of course, Jonah learned about God’s compassion when it was also extended to him. Joseph let go of bitterness to redeem his family and rescue a nation. Moses began to trust God and led Israel out of slavery. But most important, Christ took on all the wounds that anyone could endure. He overcame all the pain our world could throw at Him for the purpose of that very world’s redemption.
But we know that God has called us to a life of wholeness, where only the best stuff can grow. And by the very John 3:16-ness of the Good News, we are called to lean on the hope of God’s redemptive power to save everyone—even those who have hurt us. Whenever we allow woundedness to take root in our life, it will grow. When it does, our hearts will become hostile terrain—just like a garden full of weeds. A wounded and critical spirit leaves no room to trust God, and it chokes out our capacity to love our neighbor. We need to surrender our untrained eye to the Divine Gardener of our soul because only He can heal our spirit.
Only as we sit before Christ in prayer can we allow Him to identify and uproot the woundedness that impedes what He wants to grow in the soil of our hearts. Only as we contemplate His Word can the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control spring up in our lives. Only through the daily “weeding” of our inner life can we begin to approach the world with the same openness and love with which Christ comes to us.
Matt Litton is an author, a speaker, a best-selling collaborative writer, the Director of Mindful Christianity, and coauthor of the forthcoming In the Presence of Jesus (October 19, 2021).