Kneeling on the stone wall, my bare toes resting on damp earth, I weeded my boss's garden that she planted at the edge of woods on her property. I barely noticed as the sun continued to set as I threw myself into my latest task and avoided thinking about a lot of things.
At least, not directly.
And after two days of work in her four very large flower beds, I have had plenty of time to converse with Heavenly Father about many things.
I asked about my predicament--to understand how to better serve my friend who had entrusted me with a secret so far beyond my understanding, I have handled it with next to no grace at all.
And He taught me about weeds.
I noticed that weeds are usually simple to pull. Some are smaller than my finger in their youth, with barely any root at all. It's almost tempting to leave many of them behind when you look down the side of a house and see the daunting size of a flowerbed that is ridden with weeds yet to be addressed.
How much like temptation, came the whispered statement to my mind.
But the comparison of evil to weeds seemed so tired and subjective. What makes a flower so different from a weed? A few blossoms dictate which plants I am told to pull from the ground and throw into the woods, and which plants I will protect and nurture? Because I only have the task of tending to these flowerbeds because my boss's son doused them all in weed killer--he thought he was "helping,"--but I have to say: there isn't much of a difference between a dead flower from a dead weed from where I was sitting. It all seemed so superficial, but I held my tongue and let the whisper speak.
Weed pulling has been a two-day project. On the first day, I started in the large, stone flowerbeds that were built into the patio. The first flowerbed barely had anything for me to pull. As the most accessible bed, I could see it received the most attention. I probably plucked more dead heads (withered blossoms) than weeds. And when the work was done, seeing the flowers in their thriving, perfect corner of the world really was a pleasant image. Starting with that bed gave me an understanding of what it is I'm trying to create by getting rid of weeds, and the importance of the first thing I learned that day: always pull any weed you see, no matter how small. Chances are excellent (but not guaranteed) that weeding is easier when the weeds are small.
One of the elevated beds right up against the house was full of orange lilies of some kind. They grew so tall, I only noticed a few weeds poking up among the tops of their skyward blossoms. But when I pulled back their leaves, I saw them. They were everywhere. Clover, grasses, tiny vines. It was then that I learned my second lesson about weeds--always look for them, even if you think you won't find any, because part of their design is to go unnoticed.
The ground level bed next to the basement door was no pleasant task, but it was necessary. Just like the bed that received a lot of attention and represented the ideal, this bed was nothing but weeds and represented how inherently unruly and unappealing weeds are. You sit down to tend to them, and there's almost no way to tell where one begins and the others end. Pulling haphazardly does not get the job done any faster, even though you know everything has to come out anyway, because they all grow in different directions. In order to get them out, you have to go to each weed's source. Finding it can be the majority of the challenge, especially anything that spreads like a vine. But once you start pinching at the origin of tangles, instead of at the tangles themselves, you'd be surprised at how easily the entire thing comes out of the ground.
My least favorite area, and the most difficult area, was on the side of the house beside a stone path. The path leads to the driveway, and the crevices between the stones were dotted with many, many weeds. These had already been sprayed with weed killer, but that made them even more difficult to pull because the little tufts of grass--almost too small to grasp--would break off in my hands unless I gripped and pulled them just right. And the bed between the house and this path was no better. The ground was hard and dry with lots of rocks. The weeds were easy to see, of every size and variety, and were practically daring me to pull them. Even when I pinched at the origins of even the most unassuming weeds, they would break off in my hands because the roots were packed into the parched ground too tightly. I puzzled over what to do for several minutes as I rested, until I finally pulled a hose over and doused the ground. It didn't make sense--weeds need water, so why am I going to feed them in order to kill them--but that brought to mind the story of Jael in Judges. She fed the enemy, Sisera, only to drive a nail through his head once he was asleep. Likewise, sometimes weeds have to be tolerated patiently before they can be pulled. And because it was high noon by the time I got to this bed, I eventually moved on to one of the others without finishing.
I started on the bed next to the woods. After planting the flowers she left for me--my favorite calla lilies--I began to work my way down the wall, pulling weeds as I went. I quickly learned about the value of reinforcements--the weeds certainly had them. Worms, frogs, bugs, and plenty of other things that are "gross" and make me leap away from the bed in girlish horror. But not to be outdone, I drenched myself in bug spray (thank goodness for girl's camp leftovers) and continued for a little while longer. The sun was beginning to set, and I was beginning to feel the effects of the day.
And now as that next-to-last bed is nearing completion, I realize what this parable of the weeds has taught me.
Working against temptation is necessary, and it's always going to get your hands dirty. Calmly and patiently identify the source. Pull from there, and don't expect it to work on the first attempt. Watch out for outside forces. And for the love of all things sacred and holy, don't make it worse. Hacking away at your vices (or someone else's), even when it appears constructive, hardly ever is. You might just break off what may be your only opportunity to do the good you intended to do.
I know a lot about that because of the situation I threw myself into a couple of days ago with Boyfriend (henceforth to be called The Patient One, because he certainly has to be to deal with his problem, and all the ways I've made it worse.)
I don't know much about the weed he is facing. And part of me desires to do nothing less than to reach into his life somehow and just pull it out. I'm accepting more and more every day that I do not have the ability to do that, and that I shouldn't pretend like I do. It makes me put my expectations and my hopes in all the wrong places--mostly on myself. And since this was back before I knew anything about weeding, I approached it like I do most other things in my own life--fully prepared with a fully-loaded arsenal and a plan of attack. And when he wouldn't let me, I guess my thought process at 1 a.m. was to be more forceful, because the message--no the accusations I sent him were terribly lacking in respect, compassion, and tact.
Needless to say, he responded like anyone else would: in defense of himself and making accusations of his own about my imperfections. It was like yanking on a thorned weed with my bare hands, and then staring at the cuts in my hands and marvelling at the fact that they were bleeding.
And while I know I've hurt him deeply, and he isn't really speaking to me right now, I'm just hoping that The Patient One will be as forgiving as he has been patient with me. Because as clumsy and misguided as I have been with what he revealed to me, I am doing everything I can to accept it...
Who would have thought that believing it and accepting it would prove to be two different weeds?
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