It’s garden season again. Many of us are making trips to Lowe’s, Menards, and greenhouses across town. A few years ago, Kristi and I jumped on the “hey we are stuck at home with literally nowhere to go – so let’s plant things and watch them grow” bandwagon. We had no idea what we were doing, but it was crazy times during the spring of 2020. I was really excited to plant some herbs in the garden, and I was thrilled to see that mint was an option. When we got home, I put the mint plants in the corner of the garden bed and dreamed of all the marinades and mint tea I could make. The season went by, and the mint, though barely used, gave me a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction.
The following year I was surprised that the mint came back and spread . . . a lot. After some brief googling and chats with experts, we learned that one should never plant mint in the bed because its roots grow under the soil, and it spreads and spreads and spreads. Once it’s in the ground, it is incredibly difficult to remove. In fact, even though Kristi and I spent hours pulling out the mint and the roots, it came back with a vengeance throughout the summer and the year after. The mint, once a fun and exciting plant for me, had become a weed that threatened every other plant in my garden box. This spring, I spent an entire day tearing apart the bed and combing through the garden box ensuring every single root was gone. A few weeks later, a mint plant sprang up; I couldn’t believe it. Now every morning and every evening, I comb the bed to ensure that no mint returns.
As we enter into the summer, our Fearless Churches are exploring the book of Proverbs and the ancient wisdom of Israel. There is one proverb that I was reminded of as I pulled at the mint in my garden…
Proverbs 24:30–34 (NIV): I went past the field of a sluggard, past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins.
I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.
Solomon tells us something that most people in Israel knew all too well: thriving gardens require constant attention and maintenance. While the proverbial wisdom here highlights the importance of hard work and dedication in life and how important it is to guard against laziness, there is also a profound spiritual lesson to be learned. Our hearts and souls are like gardens, and our unhealthy habits and disordered desires are like the weeds that spring up and spread under the surface. If left unchecked and unattended, they run wild until everything is overrun.
If you’ve ever had to tackle an overrun garden, you know how hard, time-consuming, and laborious it is to clean things up. I can tell you from experience the work of tending to our hearts and souls is significantly more challenging. In fact, without the master gardener Jesus to help us, we’d be overrun entirely. Thankfully, Jesus helps us and gives us the strength and power of his Spirit to work in and through us as we tackle the weeds of our hearts and souls.
The challenge is, however, that we have a daily part to play. We are the ones who need to allow Jesus to show us the areas that need tidying. Moreover, we need to be obedient to rooting out disordered desires and unhealthy habits. We do this through prayer, confession, and repentance. If we are honest, it’s a daily process in our journey of following Jesus. If we want to have clean hearts and souls – ones that are thriving – we need to be relentless in partnering with Jesus in the “rooting” out of sin in our lives. If not, our “weeds” can overtake us, and the mess can become deeply rooted and difficult to clear.
Former leader of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold once said, “You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming wholly animal, play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth, play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind. He who wants to keep his garden tidy does not reserve a plot for weeds.” This summer, be mindful of the habits and desires in your life. If they are not good habits or desires or ones that will lead to Jesus, get rid of them by asking Jesus to forgive, save, and make you new. Let’s pursue thriving gardens in our hearts and souls.