About this time last year, my husband and I were getting ready to move into the first house we’d ever purchased. Our energy was spent completing the renovations needed to make the house move-in ready. With our focus on the inside of the house, we didn’t pay much attention to the exterior. From what remains of garden beds, flower beds, and landscaping features, it seems like the yard was well-maintained at one time.
A year later and with the interior of the house in good shape, we’ve turned our attention to the outside. Neither of us has much landscaping experience, but it didn’t take long for us to make one major observation: weeds grow much faster than plants. I learned this the hard way after meticulously spraying our yard, waiting a day or two, and then pulling every weed I could find. I probably don’t need to tell you how unimpressed I was when the weeds were back within a matter of weeks – and worse than they’d been before.
We still haven’t come up with a solution for our weeds, but the process has prompted me to think a little deeper. Since horticultural imagery is plentiful throughout Scripture, broadening my understanding of gardening slightly has helped me appreciate biblical truth more fully. For example, the person who trusts in the Lord “is like a tree planted by water” (Jeremiah 17:7). God’s people are described as “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3). Jesus depicted His Father as a vinedresser who prunes fruitful branches so that their fruitfulness will increase (John 15:2).
Here’s what came to mind as I considered the present state of our yard:
We can’t get rid of weeds once and for all. When I went to the store for weed spray, I expected it to take care of the problem for good. I didn’t realize that the key to maintaining a weed-free yard is constant tending. Similarly, we’re going to be sorely disappointed if we expect to kill off unhealthy habits and behaviors – weeds of the heart, if you will – in one fell swoop. Instead, sin is uprooted from our hearts little by little as we tend to weak areas continually.
Just because a weed isn’t there today doesn’t mean there won’t be one tomorrow. Like I mentioned before, my naivety led me to believe that I had taken care of the weeds because I didn’t see them anymore. Once they’ve been pulled up, there’s no more weed problem, right? Wrong. Weeds spread their seeds in a variety of ways, usually going unnoticed until the problem recurs. It’s better to be armed with an ongoing strategy for combatting the weeds than to be blindsided by their multiplication. Likewise, just because we aren’t struggling in a particular area at the moment doesn’t mean it will never become an issue. Sin has a tendency of blindsiding us if we aren’t on guard and ever aware of our own susceptibility to stumble.
The good stuff takes time to grow. Our lack of gardening experience didn’t stop us from trying our hand at growing a few herbs. Other than when I accidentally watered a sprout too forcefully, we’ve had a pretty successful debut. Much to our dismay, though, we learned that herbs don’t grow nearly as fast as weeds. One of my college professors used to say, “God grows things, and He’s not in a hurry.” Now I have a better understanding of what he meant. God is in the business of producing good fruit in the lives of His people, and good fruit takes time to grow.
Unlike me, God is a perfect Gardener. He takes His time and skillfully places us in just the right conditions to bring about greater fruitfulness. As we cooperate with His work in our lives, the weeds of the heart are gradually replaced by godliness, which grows and blossoms for His glory.