If you have never visited the southwest you might not think anything grows here that doesn’t have a thorn. Our yard, like most in the desert, is a mixture of stone, grass, succulents and tropical plants. Now it goes without saying that water is a rare and precious commodity, so you might question the wisdom of tropical plants, but it comes down to this important fact, they just look so pretty by our pools. No matter that we spend a fortune keeping the darn things alive. When it comes to cactus, who hasn’t got a funny story about a beach ball or even an unsuspecting guest, being impaled in the yard.
Unlike our neighbors to the north, doggie bombs turn to mummified dust in a week. Can you say bonus! Believe it or not, stuff just seems to grow here even in the summer. Trimming the bushes is nothing more than giving a giant dust rag a haircut and if you aren’t wearing a breathing mask you’ll be growing plants in your lungs in no time.
Another thing that grows here is weeds. Before we moved into our current home, and well before our previous house sold (see: Giving God Deadlines), we decided not to water the yard in the new place in attempt to speed up what we hoped was the demise of ugly. For a year and a half, no water. Yet the weeds lived on and made lots of little weed families. The thing about weeds is, they are always just under the surface. This has led me to contemplate a deeper correlation between weeds and sins. Now before you wonder if I’ve been drinking too much Round-up, hear me out.
An introspective look at my soul as a habitual sinner, while terrifying to contemplate, is much like my yard I have found. In all seasons the potential for weeds is there. Blazing sun and lack of water may slow down their appearance, but they are always there waiting for a few drops of water to send them reaching for the sky. This can be true for sin as well. It’s not that sin is always in our soul waiting to pop out and catch us by surprise, no, those seeds are often in our heart and mind, but end up planted on our souls. This concupiscence, or propensity to sin does exist, and is like fertilizer in the right condition.
I arose at dawn the other day hoping to get a jump on the yard before it hit one hundred degrees. This is no mean feat when the coolest temperature at night is ninety. Sure, we have bragging rights in the winter and spring when the rest of the country is buried in snow. But the summers…that is where the real test comes. As I surveyed my yard, I found an alarming number of weeds that didn’t appear to be there yesterday. I attempt to stay ahead and pluck the ones without thorns whenever I see them, but they materialize the minute I look away.
Pondering the image of my soul as it appears from heaven’s perspective makes me shudder. The very thought of what the Divine Gardener sees, is unsettling. It must get exhausting weeding my soul and pruning the limbs that bear no fruit. No wonder our merciful, loving God must take matters into His own hands when we cannot keep up with the maintenance required. Frequent confession is good, but what about those roots that lie under the surface that can cause new growth? This is where our Father does His best work. We all know those painful moments and events in our life where we see the Divine Gardener digging and removing the root of sinful behaviors. Sure, they hurt like crazy, but remember, it is crazy good. It is hard to see this in the midst of those painful pruning’s, “He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” (Jn 15:2)
Been there, done that! And I know there is much more pruning to come. That is what merciful love is all about and it should bring us peace not anxiety. God is getting us ready for something bigger, better, and more delightful than we can fully imagine. He is preparing us for life in His Garden.
We can see how nature can help us understand deeper theological meanings if we take the time to ponder them. However, I am still trying to make sense of the millions of seed pods the mesquite tree drops daily but that is for another day perhaps, or maybe just a good barbecue.