“Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field.” (Gen 3:18)
The gardener’s greatest enemy is surely the army of weeds that invades his gardens every year. A trip to Home Depot or Lowe’s will give you access to 1,001 weed killing chemicals that will help you control weeds, but you’ll be missing much of the romance of the garden: the romance of weeds.
Weeds are present in the world by the will of God. Their presence is part of a curse that was set over the world–a magic spell if you will–when Adam disobeyed the Lord in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, when we see weeds, we ought to marvel because they bring us into direct contact with the fall of man…that’s quite a stirring reflection if you give yourself a chance to meditate on it.
The challenge of course is the “sweat of your brow” part. After all, these little buggers kill our fruit-bearing plants we hope to eat from. I’d like to share with you the way we look at weeds here at Villa Pacis, with more of a spiritual perspective than most gardeners.
There are three different kinds of weeds, each with a different message.
The first are those that are present in our gardens and spread by bearing seeds. These begin with a single seed that grows into a weed plant. The weed tends to grow faster and uses more water than the plants we are trying to grow–that’s part of the curse. If it’s only one seed, we simply pull it out and it’s done with. However, such weeds may fill a whole field or a large patch in a garden. It is impossible to pluck out all of these weeds–and we don’t need to. They may do damage now, but they will die and give no more trouble in the future. Our task in controlling these weeds is to simply not let them reproduce. We deal with these weeds by keeping them mowed short before they ever bear seed. Eventually, they die without having reproduced and that’s the end of them. In addition to this, we sow good seed in their place and replace the weeds with the grass of cultivated plants we desire. In time, such weeds will be eliminated. We can see how this parallels one challenge we face as Christians in a world full of sin. There are many sinful influences in the world that do their damage, but whose days are numbered. There are many movements causing great harm to human society and we cannot possibly remove them all, but we can keep them from spreading their influence and we can sow good see in their place. This is seen nowhere more clearly than in education!
The second kind of weed is more troublesome. These weeds do not spread by seeds, but by roots beneath the surface. These weeds cannot be controlled–they must be rooted out. If it is an individual weed, we must pull it out from the ground roots and all. It is a large patch of weeds in a field, we must till the entire ground and destroy the network of roots that will continue to spread unless discovered and removed. In the world, there are more dangerous influences than those who spread by casting their seeds about in public view. There are sins and sinners who increase their influence in hidden ways that are indiscernible at the surface. It requires a master gardener with an eye to see what is unseen. Rather than preventing the spread of these weeds by mowing or sowing good seed, he attacks them head on and exposes them through his own labor. A lazy attack that merely breaks up the roots but leaves them hidden beneath the surface can make the situation many times worse. However, once thoroughly dug up and exposed, they wither and die–by the fact of their being exposed to the light.
The third and last kind of weed is one that cannot be prevented no matter how excellent the farmer. There are weeds that grow as a result of an animal, insect or bird’s carrying their seed along from one garden into another. These weeds may also be brought in by the wind or by accident. Often we do not expect them or know where they might be until they spring up. When sprung we must attack them immediately and root them out at first sight. In the Christian life, we cannot escape the negative influence of sinners around us and sometimes evils are brought into our lives through well-meaning friends, relatives and neighbors. Nevertheless, no matter who the source might be or whether they were innocent in carrying the weed seeds or not, they must be immediately rooted out, lest they take root and grow…and multiply. We must be ready at all times–even in the presence of friends–to guard against every entrance of evil and understand that even friends can bring terrible weeds. We cannot control their coming in–but we can allow them to remain and do their damage. That is our fault, not the carrier’s.
What is most mysterious in all of this is (as the old saying goes): “the richer the soil the greater the weeds”. Should the opposite not be the case?! The diligent gardener, who works his soil and makes it ready for a great harvest, carefully removing every unwanted weed prepares a soil that invites and nurtures more and more weeds and thus he must fight them more and more. If he stops the fight, the weeds present before him will take root and damage his crops. If he wars against the present weeds, he invokes future enemies whose strength will be increased. The only option it to choose the right–to take up the present battles and trust for God’s help to grow stronger and continue through every battle until the final victory. The good man must embrace labor and realize that the only way to attain a land with unhindered growth and abundant fruits is to fight…and fight…and fight until the end.
“So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble, through which many may become defiled.
There is no easy way out of the reality that weeds will always be present. However, they are of different kinds and must be addressed with different strategies. We must labor for the food of the earth in the same way we must labor for the benefits of our souls. Weed sprays will not help us and we are deceived when we believe that there will be some easy way out. We can kill the weeds, but there will be more. It is the fight itself by which we are saved and we must embrace that fight and love it as the means of our salvation.
Reflection: The chemical weed sprays give hope to many, but they cannot work. Based on the understanding gained through our spiritual meditation, why not?