This week, I decided to make my debut as a gardener—spoiler alert: I am a terrible gardener— and I learned a few things along the way. I walked into this adventure knowing 2 things about gardening: (1) Water your plants. (2)Take time to weed.
I spent my first weekend as a gardener putting the second rule into practice. As I began planting, I noticed a few weeds making their way through our fence. I climbed to the top of our fence and discovered it wasn’t just a few weeds. We had a full weed army slowly, patiently making its way into our yard. I became a woman on a mission, hopped over our fence and began chopping away at the weeds. After about an hour, I did not look like I was winning this battle. I was covered in sweat, dirt, scratches, and maybe poison ivy and it looked like I’d made no progress. I became discouraged and suddenly an old tape started playing in my head:
“This is impossible.”
“I’m not making any progress.”
“This will never get better.”
“You can’t garden.”
The story could stop there, and we could call this post, “My One-Hour Misadventure in Gardening.” Instead, I put into practice something a counselor told me years ago. She said that gardening could reveal so much in our faith journey and in my journey through grief. She told me to get curious as I gardened and see what God was showing me. I took a breath, stepped back, and looked at the army of weeds in front of me.
I observed a few things:
This took years to grow and will take time to heal. These weeds did not grow overnight: they’d been staking their place in the ground for years. They were thick, covered in thorns, and knotted so tightly together to prevent anything else from growing here. How often do our life circumstances teach us to protect ourselves from pain? We grow our own thorns and hardened shells to protect ourselves. This is not what God wants for you and me. He wants to heal those wounds to place balm on our disappointments, heartbreaks, and grief. The healing will not happen overnight, but as we continue to lay it before God, he will meet us in the weeds and lead us to the garden.
The tools you use matter. As my energy renewed, I realized the tools I had were not going to work on all of these weeds. Some of the weeds took an aggressive weed whacking and were easily knocked down to their roots. Others required pausing and slowly, patiently using my hands to remove the vine from the fence. Often in our grief and pain, we want to whack away at the parts that hurt but we never get to the root. Years later, that weed can grow back stronger than before. Take the time to get the right tools. Those tools can look like a counselor, setting aside intentional time with God, and/or seeking out a community of friends who speak truth and encouragement into your life.
Life can grow even in the weeds. Our seasons in the weeds can vary: it can be a weekend or it can be years. I don’t know where you are in the journey, but as you uproot the weeds in your life you will discover life grows there. I discovered a bird’s nest and carefully cut away at the thorny weeds around it. My hope is that when those little eggs hatch and the fledglings learn to fly that they are freer because there are no thorns holding them back.
All of us are experiencing some common grief right now— just turn on the news and we all feel the collective pain and fear of our nation. On top of that pain is the grief you already carried. Perhaps it’s the loss of someone you love, a painful season in a relationship, a diagnosis you never saw coming, and the list goes on.
Grief is not a bad thing. It’s what grows when we don’t deal with our grief. We can’t stop the circumstances around us, but we can stop pushing down the ache and begin weeding away at the fear, disappointment, and hurt to see what can still bloom.
As for my little garden, it’s safer today from all the weeds but I have another date with the weed army this weekend to protect those blooms and reflect on what is important to me.