I’ve never been much for gardening. In one of my parish youth ministry jobs, I kept a spiderwort plant in my office – but I never watered it, leading a volunteer to quip to me one afternoon: Mike, you don’t deserve to have plants! In my household, it is my wife who adores gardening – who plants, who waters, who weeds, and who harvests many yummy things from our garden.
For my part, I’ve worked on the lawn for the last nine years: mowing, raking, overseeding, and fertilizing. But I’ve left all the weeding to her (after all, she was already doing it in the garden!)
That has changed this year. In the spring, I started pulling dandelions – by the dozens! I feel like I may have pulled up about a thousand of them over the course of May & June… and I can’t believe:
a) how pervasive they are in my lawn, and…
b) how thick and deep their roots can go
It’s amazing really – a dandelion sprouts up, goes to seed, and there’s a dozen more plants growing in the lawn. And in spite of 8 summers of dedicated work, we’ve still got dandelions growing in our yard (but I’m working on it!)
What I’m finding in the midst of all of it is a clearer sense of why Jesus used farming & gardening images so frequently to explain matters of faith to us. What’s true of my lawn is absolutely true of my soul. Both need constant care. Both need to have some things weeded out – in the case of my soul, the thistle and dandelions are my sin and selfishness. These can have roots that are far deeper and longer than I ever imagined.
Like my lawn, my soul also needs to be re-seeded and fertilized in order to flourish. This is why we need to live a life of regular Sacraments – Mass and Confession in particular – why we need to pray and spend time in scripture, and why we need to dedicate ourselves in the loving service of others. There’s no getting around it – much like that lawn.
The other parallel that I’m finding between my soul and my lawn is that it’s a slow process, and there are days where it feels like I haven’t gone very far (that is, until I see pictures of how the lawn looked a few years ago.) While we are still battling against weeds outside – we are dealing with a lot less than we were when we arrived here in 2006. Your soul will grow in the same way – from shoot into a great tree – not by leaps and bounds, but slowly and deliberately. The strongest plants do over a long period of time what my dandelions seem to do in the blink of an eye: they set down long, thick roots in order to survive whatever I or nature might throw at them. And that process happens under ground (out of sight). So don’t be discouraged that you aren’t becoming a saint as quickly as you might like – and don’t be discouraged that you’ve still got work to do, weeding sin and selfishness out of your life. Just move forward – ever forward – and be amazed at what God can do with the garden of your soul.