Weeding the soil of our life.
I’ve been witnessing the miracle of the season shift. To make room for new things, nature lets go of the old. Nature lets things die in order to make room for new life. But sometimes even nature needs some help. I’m figuring this out through my padawan gardening interests. (Gardners beware: this post will seem very obvious but be gentle with me).
Man, is it ever hard to tell what a weed is. Just saying. The best I could figure is that it grows really fast, bears no fruit and has no beauty. Although that’s not even always the case. My 8 year old brought home his school project to convince me that weeds were plants too (a defacto weeding #timesup campaign). I decided that he could plant a weed garden if he really felt compassion for the weeded ones but that I wanted to help my existing garden grow. I’d start by weeding a lovely patch in my backyard that someone else had planted. I felt a bit responsible to tell you the truth.
So I headed out, armed with ignorance and responsibility and bent over until my back was hard to straighten again and tended to the garden in my back yard. I pulled and pulled and pulled at what looked like weeds to me and found the sweet satisfaction of pulling some out with the root, dirt shaking off the bottom. ‘Gotcha’ is an actual sweet, satisfying feeling. If he really wanted satisfaction Mick Jagar should have tried weeding!
It did seem like a lot of work for what I assumed to be just aesthetic gains. Like eyebrow threading or manicures. Pleased to do my duty but not sure it was worth it. It still seemed the right thing to do. A few days later I realized the much deeper reason weeds need to be pulled. (This is the part where experienced gardeners will most likely feel exasperated and roll their eyes… but again - have mercy on me - a padawan).
The existing plants began to flourish. Without the weeds sucking the nutrients of the earth - taking all the water and minerals to grow fast and hard and ugly - the plants had room to take a deep breath and drink in the precious life of the soil. And it did them a world of good. It did my garden a world of good. It did my soul a world of good. I felt the nudging of a divine whisper with deeper truth for the garden of my life.
And so it goes to live well means a letting go or a little pulling up before a growing or bearing or beauty. A bending before a tall, stretching straightening in the sun. The death involved in resurrection is not just for aesthetics it turns out. It’s a deep work within. Under the surface of our lives there is soil for our souls that has enough nourishment to make us grow. But there are things in our lives that grow fast and furious and bear no fruit and obscure our natural beauty. They can sometimes seem like growth - we often confuse them for life giving impulses. But they are tricky imposters who suck up the preciousness of our soil and starve our natural beauty, keeping us locked and limited and hidden.
They are prejudice, bitterness, jealousy, self pity, sloth, appetite, laziness, indifference, selfishness - those are the ones I’ve come to recognize in my life’s garden. I’ve discovered these things and many more are often disguised as a means of growth. I remember a conversation with someone about taking a sabbath and thinking that watching a whole season on Netflix without interruption would soothe my soul - but it didn’t. Of course it didn’t. It was a weed disguised as a flower. It sucked me dry and the soil of my life was coarser not truer. No nutrients to be found there. Best to just pull it out. And nourish the soil. Maybe a sabbath is better spent hiking, or journalling, or tending to the beauty bearing areas of my soul. I wander into a beautiful catholic church to sit in the presence of One much bigger than me. Ahhhh. I take a deep breath and drink in the nourishing presence of life. I’m better for it. I feel ripe for blooming.
In the hopes of improving my appearance I sift through Pinterest looking for outfits that I don’t have. I spend half the day going to discount stores to find clothes that might just fit the bill to dress up my life and feel the energy and vitality of my day sucked dry. I remind myself that the outside of me is overrated and turn on some music and cook a decent meal and set the table and spend time with people I love… and my soul finds rest. Naked and happy on the inside. Who really cares how cool my outfit is? I rest in the one who clothes the lilies of the field and celebrate an already full closet with some gratitude. I feel a bud ready to burst with color.
I’m tired and restless and reach for a sugar coated donut topped with my favorite ice cream or chocolate treat to soothe myself. It doesn’t soothe. It adds weight - not just physically but the weed of my appetite enlarges and rather than satiate it unlocks a deeper hunger - one that I just can’t fill. Not even with a big bowl of popcorn 30 minutes later. Instead, I put in my earphones and turn on a podcast that leads me through 30 minutes of mindful meditation with scripture from the Psalms. I breathe deeply as instructed and take the 30 minutes to eat a different kind of food. Food for my soul. I feel satisfied. I feel presence. I feel nourished. I grow taller. I live more deeply. I reach into the soil of life and emerge more alive. A burst of energy forges a full flower from my bud.
Weeding is tricky. Identifying disguised growth lacking in depth and character is hard work. Sometimes you have to lean over so long your back finds it hard to straighten. But allowing weeds to grow unfettered is dangerous to the soil. To the plants. To growth. To our lives.
So, pull them out. Pull all of them out. Identify them by their easy and fast growth that withers your soul and pull them out at the root. Replace them with the things already planted in you that are stuck hidden and in the shade. Let the sun shine on your god-given gifts, beauty, and dreams. It’s garden season. Time for the sorting. Let things go that don’t give you life and embrace the beauty waiting to emerge from your own soul. All that’s left after the weeding Is the beauty of releasing the garden of your life to grow.