Clearing away one’s garden beds can reveal much!
Today, I found myself performing the never ending task of weeding. In particular, an intruding vine, known as “Ground Ivy” or “Creeping Charlie”, knows no bounds as it constantly invades my rose beds. Although it looks deceptively charming at first, Creeping Charlie will choke the life out of my roses and other plants if allowed. Hence, why I pulled out my knee pad and spent about 2 hours ripping this vine out as best as I could not to mention the persistent flock of dandelions and other unknown weeds in my urban garden. I’m not sure who sowed Creeping Charlie into my yard probably decades ago, but my goodness, what a headache! To help eliminate the encroaching yard from reaching my flower beds, the husband and I will soon be implementing a border control of sorts with old brick or stone (it’s still up for discussion as to which we can agree on).
So while the dirt compiled under my nails this morning, I thought about how necessary boundaries are in our lives as they define our roles, our responsibilities, and our way of life. Without boundaries or borders defining and describing such areas, both our garden and our world would be chaos. Boundaries not only define who we are, but they protect what we value most. A brick or stone border, a fence, a wall, laws, rules, and terms of an agreement, are all examples of boundaries. God’s word found in the Holy Bible provides boundaries to live by as well. Such boundaries, or written terms, are designed to define our roles and responsibilities as believers, who we are in Christ Jesus, and the way to life. By rejecting these Judeo-Christian boundaries, there are chaotic consequences – just look at the world around us or even your own life. I certainly suffered chaotic and unnecessary consequences when I didn’t abide by God’s boundaries. I’m sure you can think of a time or two you did as well. Clearly, without them, ungodly vines like Creeping Charlies can invade our hearts and homes choking out the life God intended for us. How important it is we learn to abide within Christ’s border control while eliminating the ungodly vines and weeds the world sows.
After much researching and deliberation, I set out to find a specific rose of particular beauty and fragrance known as “Double Delight”. As I slowly perused the rows of selection at a local nursery, I was disappointed to not find the rose I had my heart set on. Nevertheless, I lingered about intrigued by the variety of colors and scents displayed before me. Upon walking up and down the aisles, I decided to look a little more carefully just beyond the arrangement of roses for sale. To my utmost surprise and delight, there was my desired rose hiding in a dark, forgotten corner. She was the last one left, wrapped up in bare root form, just waiting to be redeemed. Upon finding this rose known as “Double Delight” and redeeming her as my very own rose, I experienced double delight indeed!
Did you know, the Spirit of the Lord searches for those He desires? He long-suffers, patiently pursuing us with the desire to redeem us, heal us, transform us. He’s not afraid to reach into the dark, overlooked corner we’ve been hiding in. He sees beauty in us no other can possibly see. He longs to adopt us into His collection of fragrant roses because He knows in time, we will dispense a unique fragrance of love into a hurting city of barrenness. Once we are found and come into His kingdom, Jesus tells us in Luke 15, all of heaven rejoices over such a delightful find! If I delighted in finding such a rose, surely, He doubly delights in finding you!
You probably are familiar with the parable of the wheat and tares found in Matthew 13, where Jesus warns that His true followers are like the wheat of a field whereas others who follow the world and may even appear to the naive as Christ’s followers, but aren’t, are the tares, which is another word for weeds. Wheat and tares grow side by side and look very similar until they are fully mature and ready to be harvested. If the tares are weeded out of the field or world early on, it may cause the wheat not to mature. Therefore, at the end of the age, there will be a harvest. At such a harvest, the tares or weeds will be destroyed from Earth through burning, while the wheat will be stored safely in God’s barn.
Many rose bushes you buy at local home improvement stores and nurseries are grafted onto a hardy, vigorous root stock. If you see a knot at the base of a rose, this is called a “bud union” where the two plants are united. Once planted, below the ground is the hardy root stock. Above the ground is the bush you selected for it’s color, fragrance, disease resistance, etc. Sometimes, what’s known as a “sucker” grows up out of the ground alongside the rose bush you purchased. The sucker is a separate cane that has manifested from the root stock. The sucker often looks similar at first to the rose bush you bought – after all, it is still a rose cane. Eventually, as both the sucker and the intended rose bush develop, the gardener will realize the sucker is indeed a very different bloom than the one they bought. If one is new to rose gardening though, it would be easy to assume the sucker is in fact a normal part of the rose bush until both mature. It is then, one will clearly be able to differentiate the two just like the reapers could in the parable of the wheat and tares. Once the gardener determines the difference, the sucker must be removed.
How about you? Are you a glorious rose in God’s garden or are you a look-alike sucker that will eventually be removed?
Yesterday, the strong winds violently shook my solid holly tree, whipped my small garden flag, and swirled my hair all around me as I took out the garbage. Today, a gentle breeze soothes my roses from the warmth of the Spring Sun. And as the bees buzz around searching for new buds and the butterfly flutters, they fight with the wind. Meanwhile, the roses sway in the motion of the wind as if relaxed by it’s movement.
I wonder why it is we all too often fight with the wind for the wind signifies the Spirit of God. Jesus informs us God is Spirit and where it comes from and where it goes we cannot easily determine. We can only do so by listening to the sound of it (see John 3:3-8). Christ teaches much depth in such analogies, but one could decode the importance of listening for the Voice of His Spirit or His Wind in order to follow Him wherever He blows. Furthermore, we cannot see His Holy Spirit as the Jews could see His flesh, but we can see the effects of Him blowing around us, in us, and through us. Do you fight the sound of His wind as a struggling insect or do you welcome it like a relaxed rose? What does His Wind sound like to you? What does He look like in your garden? Life is too short to fight with the wind.
Upon letting the roots of my newly purchased bare root rose soak in a bucket of water for approximately 24 hours, I decided to recruit my 11 year old son in helping me plant it. Although willing to help me out, my son was not keen on getting his hands too dirty. After all, his hands prefer Legos and videos games. Nevertheless, I figured he could use the sunshine and learn a thing or too in the process. After choosing the desired area of where I wanted to plant my new rose, we saturated the ground to make the digging easier while also testing the drainage of soil. My son and I then took a few turns plunging the shovel in the dirt till we reached the width and depth we needed. By this point, we were ready to transplant the bare root rose from being in the bucket filled with water to it’s permanent home in the ground. Because the ground was reasonably muddy, I put on pink rubber gloves to protect my freshly painted nails. Apparently, even I don’t like to get my hands too dirty!
I proceed to create a mound of soil in the shape of a pyramid within the hole so I could rest the rose on top of the mound while sprawling it’s roots out as best as possible for optimal growth. While holding the rose in one hand, or glove I should say, I used the other to pack the dirt around the roots as well as the dirt around the base of the rose till she was firmly secure. Overall, the process of planting our newly adopted rose was a success, but we sure did make a muddy mess.
Many days later, I reflect on how we as Christians often like the beauty of our Christian traditions and concepts much like we enjoy the beauty of roses or the idea of a lovely garden. However, we don’t usually like to be too inconvenienced by getting our hands dirty. It’s far easier to be comfortable in our faith journey or to be what I call “convenient Christians” than followers of Christ willing to follow Him all the way to our own cross and eventual resurrection. More often we prefer to stand around like my son and watch others get dirty for God. Or if we do take the plunge, we set limits on our love by wearing gloves so the depth of our devotion doesn’t stain our nails, alter our appearance, or even transform us.And yet, Christ’s devotion willingly took the depth of a few nails to remove our sinful stains with the hopes we’d be firmly rooted in His garden.
As the warm Spring air awakened my senses, I decided to spend sometime addressing the garden beds my ground-covering drift roses call home. Kneeling on my padded garden mat, I ever so delicately cleared away the dead leaves that found themselves entangled within the canes of these low to the ground roses. While slowly and carefully clearing away the fallen leaves, random trash, and overgrown weeds from tight places so close in between the rose canes and the dirt, the Holy Spirit gently pointed out to me how these little wandering roses were being smothered and held down partly by the dead leaves embedded in their canes, partly by the proximity of the rose being too low to the ground, and partly by the weeds that encamped these drift roses. Similarly, how easy it is to become small roses “drifting” through life by hanging onto burdensome leaves like offense or by allowing enormous life sucking weeds like negative people, places, or things to stunt our growth. Thankfully, when Jesus, as our Master Gardner, kneels down besides us, reaches in our mess, and starts to slowly clear the debris, we can start to see the truth of our ugly realities, who He is, and who we are in His beautiful garden more clearly. When we start to accept the truth of our own captivity and how we got there, while letting God’s Spirit get in our dirt, we will no longer be ground-covering roses painfully drifting through this garden called life. Instead, we will be ever-blooming and ever-growing roses breaking new ground!
A few weeks ago when the first bouts of warm weather foreshadowed Spring, I joyfully toiled in my rose garden as I yanked up weeds, collected miscellaneous trash that navigated its way to my urban oasis, and pruned away damaged, diseased, or dead canes. Upon doing so, I had to practice a bit of gymnastics or perhaps yoga to conform my body into some unwelcomed areas within and around my rose bushes. Unfortunately, I made the foolish decision to wear nothing but sandals while my legs and ankles were only mere inches from piercing pain.
And although I was surprisingly more limber than anticipated, my cell phone’s startling ringtone combined with a charlie horse in my foot stole my much needed concentration! Consequently, my ankle rammed into the thorns, or more accurately stated the prickles, I so gingerly tried to avoid. While accepting that prickly moment, my head flew back crying out in pain only to be greeted by a crown of thorns. So there I was in pain looking like the scary Carrie from that old horror film, hobbling to my persistent cell phone, which turned out to be just my husband wanting to see how my day’s been. It took an act of grace to not lash out upon feeling the full ramifications of such a precarious matter.
After running out to purchase mid-calf garden boots, I pondered on how painful it must have been for Jesus to wear His crown of thorns the Romans crushed into His skull full of wisdom and decided grace. Interestingly enough, the bush with the unimaginable prickles that pierced my flesh is called Fourth of July. Surely it’s no coincidence the extraordinarily thorny rose bush named in honor of our freedom reminded me of The One who longed to pierce our hearts when He willingly made a way for our eternal freedom.