Monday, April 14, 2008

The Neighbor’s Weeds

My idea of hard work is to sit in the shade with a lemonade. Usually there’s a breeze from the south, and the weeping willow is broad and tall in my yard.

Not long ago my yard taught me a few fascinating facts about my life, your life, and life in general.

After an afternoon’s shower some small green weeds showed their faces. Here in the high desert a little green is a nice, restful color, so I didn’t panic. A few days later some tiny yellow flowers greeted me as I walked to the mailbox across the road. Upon closer inspection they were attached to some things I had not planted. Weeds.

By the next week my nice, easy-to-care-for gravel landscaped yard was spotted with green of all shades. It was time for action.

One flat green weed reminded me of one of mama’s crocheted doilies, so round and symmetrical. I left it be. I bent over to examine a pale green weed, entangled with another purplish weed. The more I looked around the yard the more weeds I saw. Some were producing sharp stickers. Those will have to go now, I decided impulsively.

Ouch! This is not a job for bare hands.

Some weeds had amazingly long roots. For about an hour it was fun to see how many I could pull out intact. Then it was time for shade and lemonade.

That night sleep eluded my tired body as my mind was busily concocting a clever little dream.

At first, I was in a bookstore or a library. A girl handed me a large, heavy book, Weeds for Dummies and Clue-less Beginners. Flipping it open I saw it was written in some foreign language.

Impulsively, I set the book down and reached for a slender leather-bound book, How to Create a Lovely Life for Yourself. “Not for you!” a voice cackled.

All of a sudden I was surrounded by a group of tall, skinny men with scrawny gray beards. Their chorus of complaints started off in a joking tone, growing loud and sarcastic.

“Hey, that ditch in front of your house is a nationally-proclaimed wet land. You can’t disturb anything without government permission,” the first man taunted.

“Hey, we don’t go for someone like you showing off. Now is the time to celebrate diversity. Settle down. Quit picking on those weeds. Look for their beauty.”

“Hey, don’t ya know it’s Weed Appreciation week? The sooner you stop that violence the sooner we can have a peaceful world.”

“How dare you criticize that weed. So it’s poisonous? So it’s reproducing and spreading? It has as much right to exist as you do. This is a peaceful neighborhood.”

“Who are you to question Evolution? Let the weeds be. They are evolving into something else, and it’s for the good of the entire planet.”

“Who are you to act so self-righteous? Who are you to pass judgment on those weeds!”

“Hey, what kind of a Christian are you with so many sins growing in your life. You have no business talking about my weeds. Look at yours!”

Finally coming to my senses I called out, “Father. These guys are irritating me!”

Instantly the dream dissolved. Peace came to my troubled mind, but sleep eluded me so I got up. Wrapped in my robe I turned on the lamp and settled into the easy chair. Reaching for my tablet I jotted down some things I wanted to remember. I smiled to think how good it is for my Heavenly Father to bring important lessons to my mind. Soon I made my way back to bed, and back to sleep.

With the dawning of another blue-sky day I headed towards that easy chair and the tablet. Now I translated the scrawls into neat handwriting.

Weeds Are Like Sins, I titled the page.
1. Weeds can be noxious, some are worse than others. Sins can appear to be interestingly complex and strangely enticing.
2. Weeds, like sins, are there as a challenge to you. You are to master them.
3. A beautiful yard (life) is cared for and creative. It takes time and effort.
4. If you can’t pull out the toughest weeds water them briefly to loosen the soil. Weeping over your sins is OK, but get on with pulling them out.
5. Sometimes it seems like good strategy to pull up the small ones first. You feel successful as the muck bucket fills up. You see results.
6. Your muscles get stronger from pulling out the weeds.
7. Sometimes interesting little bugs and worms make their homes under the spreading stems, but they’ll merely keep you entertained while the weeds keep growing.
8. Ripping off some of the leaves isn’t eradication. The root is still growing underground. Soon the weed (the sin) will emerge even stronger.
9. Your yard (life) can get infested with weeds from what’s nearby. Seeds of anger, disappointment, deception, even pornography can blow into your yard. If people around you are promoting such sins give serious thought to how to protect yourself.
10. Your neighbor’s weeds will affect your yard, but passivity won’t solve it.
11. Getting angry about someone else’s sins and confronting them with “you should not,” and “you ought not,” and “you are stupid if you,” might not achieve good results.
12. Your Heavenly Father has given you the job of growing a beautiful life, but you can’t do it on your own. He will help you.
13. Sometimes a beautiful yard (life) attracts people’s attention and they stop to admire it and even ask you about it. Perhaps they notice the fountain that splashes into the pond, the colorful flowers, or even are attracted by the lovely scent of the lilac bushes.

Later, as my coffee pot percolated, perfuming the kitchen with the aroma of morning I reviewed my experience. Weeds remind us of bad habits, sins, careless words and behavior—all must be rooted out. What to do? See it, say it, confess it, quit it. After that watch for it to pop up in your life again. Keep after those pesky thoughts and behaviors.

We can’t pull out the sins from somebody else’s heart, but obviously we can pray for them to become aware of their need of Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Right then and there my Father and I had another conversation. I was thankful that I learned something from all of those weeds. Obviously, it’s not a perfect comparison with life.

Then, last week as I read the Sunday School lesson in Genesis 5:15-22 the Lord blessed me with a new understanding. I have to deal with the weeds of the neighbors. Joseph had to deal with the problems caused by others.

Each one reaps a harvest of seeds of their own doings. But each is also affected by the sins of others. Of the brothers, Joseph alone had kept strong in his faith, true to the dream of the future God had given him. It meant hard work and determination, stress and struggle, but it was worth it.

In the Old Testament we read about another young man who was tempted to sin. David yielded, but eventually confessed his sin. Psalm 51 shows us that David experienced the very real presence of the living God, the same Lord who invites you and me to experience His presence, His love, His purpose.

“Hide thy face from my sins,
and blot out all mine iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God;
and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from thy presence;
and take not thy holy spirit from me.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;
and uphold me with thy free spirit.

Then will I teach transgressors thy ways;
and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”
(Psalm 51:9-13).

Here’s to a weed-free yard and a sin-free life! Forgiveness! Joy! Peace of mind! A purpose for living! Jesus enables us to live a beautiful life.

By Elaine Hardt ©2006