Do you like to weed? While weeding recently, I had plenty of time to think of some ways that weeds relate to life. We all have weeds; weeds are the invading species that keep our souls from flourishing, from blossoming into all that they could be. So here are some ways that weeds relate to life and some ideas on how to deal with them.
1. To pull out a weed, you need to pull it out slowly.
If you pull it out too quickly, then the top will break off and the roots will be left in the ground. The same is true with bad habits in our life. You need to pull them out slowly. Don’t expect yourself to change overnight. Don’t expect to be healed instantly or for there to be a quick fix. You may try to pull it out too quickly, only for the top to snap off in your hand, leaving you flat on your bottom. Then you might give up, thinking that it’s impossible. You need to be patient with your bad habits; healing comes slowly.
2. To pull out a weed, you need to get at the roots.
When weeding, the temptation is to decapitate the thing, leaving the roots in the soil. You get rid of what you see, but leave the part of the plant that’s beneath the surface. It’s quicker this way, but shortsighted and, ultimately, fruitless. The best way to weed is to dig up the roots. You’re right, this way is messier. You’re often left with an unsightly hole in the ground, a scar on the soil. But this is the only way. Remember, the roots are the vital part of the plant. If you leave the roots, then you leave half of the weed. The same is true with weeding out bad habits: we must get at the roots. This teaches us a profound truth about our bad habits: there is more to them than what we can see. Bad habits look one way on the surface, but another way beneath the surface. A bad habit may express itself as gossip on the surface, but its roots are envy. A bad habit may express itself as low self-esteem on the surface, but its roots are really pride. We will never be able to get rid of the bad habits in our life if we do not get to the heart. They will keep growing back and attacking with a vengeance. For every bad habit, try to identify the roots, even if takes some digging.
3. To pull out weeds, you need to do constant maintenance.
You cannot just weed once a year. You need to stay on top of it. The more you weed, the less you need to weed. The less you weed, the more you need to weed. Weeds multiply quickly. As for bad habits, the more you stay on top of them, the better. The more you weed them out, the less power they gain. You shortchange their momentum. Some of us just like to “take inventory” of our lives when a crisis arises. That’s no way to weed! Instead of waiting until your life falls apart for you to take care of yourself, it’s much better to be proactive. Some people just get in touch with God when they are absolutely desperate, when things are too out of control. But that’s no way to take care of your soul. You and I need constant maintenance. We need to go to God daily. Sins multiply quickly, did you know that?
4. Remember, some weeds look like flowers.
It’s not always easy to discern weeds from plants. In fact, some weeds have flowers on them! They disguise themselves so that you’ll leave them alone. You think that they are supposed to be there. You think they look pretty. But, watch out! They are really weeds! Some of our sins and bad habits present themselves as flowers. In fact, we like them! They look good to us. We say, “Oh, that’s just my personality…” or “That’s just how I was raised…” or “I’m a guy, so what do you expect?” As if our weeds were good things! We fall in love with the flowers on our bad habits; that’s what keeps us attracted to them. But that’s like falling in love with a corpse. It might be a princess on the outside, but it’s rotting on the inside! It’s like tasting poison that’s sweet on the tongue, but lethal in the stomach. Don’t let the flowers on your weeds keep you from rooting them out. Don’t let them keep you from seeing the poison that you are handling.
5. When pulling out weeds, you will need help.
Some weeds are so big, that you need another set of hands to get them. Their roots are so strong, that you can’t get them by yourself. Or, there may be so many weeds, that there is no way that you can get them all yourself: you need some friends. Or, you may not be able to discern the weeds from the plants, so you need someone who knows more than you do. Each of these applies to our efforts to weed our hearts. We cannot weed alone. We need others to help us, either because the roots are too strong, there are too many for us to handle, or we just don’t know where to begin. You cannot fight your bad habits on your own. You need a community to be effective. I know this may run against your grain, but you and I need someone to point out our sins to us. We can’t see them, we are blind to some of them, so we need others to help us see what we cannot see. I remember when I first became a Christian, another Christian pointed out my pride. At first, I thought, “Pride? That looks good to me! Pride is supposed to be there! What’s wrong with my pride?” Only later have I realized what a deadly weed that pride is, choking out every good thing.
6. Keep in mind that when you’re weeding, there’s not just one weed.
There is never just one weed. There are always more. As it relates to our souls, if we think that we just have one or two bad habits, then we are desperately deceived. Sins are never alone. There is a network of roots beneath the surface, knotted around our souls, keeping them in a stranglehold. So don’t just go after one sin, you must go after them all. Sometimes we just work on certain sins, but leave the others alone. No, we must work on all of them, not just the ones that are displeasing to us. All of them are displeasing to God, and we must see our souls as he does.
7. Know that weeds kill the good plants around them.
Not only are weeds unattractive, but also they take over an ecosystem, devastating diversity. Their roots steal the nutrients away from the good plants. Their leaves grow up to block the sunlight from the good plants. Their stems tangle up in the good plants, strangling them to death. Weeds are violent, in other words. Never think that your bad habits are peaceful or have good intentions; our sins are violent like weeds. Our bad habits seek to steal from us, block our hope, and strangle us to death. They seek to take over our lives, so that no individual personality remains. We might be prone to think that eventually, our goodness will win out. This is false! So long as weeds are growing alongside your good deeds, you are in danger. Sins will kill our goodness—it’s just a matter of time. You cannot place all of your hope on your own goodness, without dealing with your sin. Your sins hate you and will find a way to destroy you, turning you into an ugly monster.
8. Know that weeds are our default.
Weeds come naturally, even if you don’t want them to. You might not have planted them there, but they are there! Even if you wish them away, they won’t go away. If left untended, the ground will turn to weeds. That’s the way it is with our souls: if left untended, they will turn to weeds. Our souls are not naturally good of beautiful, but corrupt. This means that in order to flourish in life, you must do the hard work of taking care of your soul, which includes removing the weeds. If you stop taking care of your soul, expect weeds to show up. We can’t slack for one day. Put another way, if you’re being slowly killed by the weeds right now, it’s probably because you’ve been neglecting yourself.
9. Be humbled by weeds.
It’s very humbling to weed. No matter how long I spend out in the garden or in a flowerbed, I can never get ahead. I can’t get them all. Even if I do, they will just come back in the morning. Then just think of all the dirt and all the weeds in the world—there is no way that we can root them all out. In a real sense, the weed problem is too big for us to handle on our own. I stand before a tiny weed, humbled. I cannot conquer them, even though they are flimsy, small, and unintelligent. They always have the last say. When it comes to your soul and its bad habits, you must find a posture of humility. I am very serious about this. Neither you nor I will ever be able to deal with our sin problem on our own. It is just too big for us to handle. We can pull out weeds all that we want, but at the end of the day, they will still be there in the morning. We cannot conquer our bad habits in this life, on our own. We are humbled in the presence of our own sin—it is too great for us. This points us to a theological truth that is a part of the Christian faith: God is the Gardner who stepped into our weedy earth in order to do what we could not do on our own. Most supremely, he pulled the weed of death, taking it clear out by the roots, and planted eternal life in its place. Only when we rely on the work of the true Gardener can our souls begin to blossom.
10. Conquer weeds by growing plants.
The best way to conquer weeds is by growing plants. Try to put as many good plants in your flowerbed as possible. Then give them water, sunlight, and good soil. If you take care of and feed the good plants, then this goes a long way in slowing the growth of weeds. The same is true with our souls. The best defense is a good offense. Plant good desires, deeds, and thoughts in your soul. Then feed them. Whatever we feed will grow. Yes, you will still have to remove the weeds, but allow the good plants to become strong, so that the weeds lose their grip. In other words, don’t just work on removing your bad habits, but cultivate new, good ones. Then be sure to take time to feed your good habits, so that they become stronger than your bad ones.
I know this has been a rather long post, but I hope I’ve given you plenty to meditate on. My advice is that you take this list slowly, putting just one at a time into practice. However, in order to be a good gardener of your soul, you’ll have to develop all of these habits. Most of all, only by sinking our roots into the love of God can we truly be saved from the weeds.
I would love to hear your thoughts about weeding!
© Samuel Kee, 2013