I am not a skilled gardener, but with each new growing season I invest a bit more time to educate myself about the process. I’ve begun to study which plants grow well in certain zones (which began with me actually figuring out what growing zone I live in). I’ve actually begun to read and heed the instructions on each packet of seed. I’ve attended online seminars to learn about the pests that are prevalent in my area and have been equipped with strategies to control them and stop their growth. I’ve learned about compost and other natural ingredients that feed and build up the soil. But most importantly, I have learned that the only way to have a successful garden that yields growth and a harvest is to actually spend time in the garden working and nourishing it.
Spaghetti squash is one of my very favorite vegetables. It is incredibly versatile and a great way to enjoy a spaghetti-like meal without the carb overload. So last year I tucked a few seeds away and planned to plant them in the garden this summer. My son and I did just that, and we’ve enjoyed watching that plant grow and grow and GROW! It has spilled over the garden bed and fence and onto the driveway. It has literally taken over the side of my house, as squash plants tend to do. It’s beautiful, lush, and full of blossoms.
The other day my neighbor commented on the abundance and beauty of those yellow blossoms. “You must have so many squash growing in that patch,” she said.
“Not one,” I lamented.
As beautiful and lush and full of blossoms as that patch is to the casual observer, there is something that has gone terribly wrong, for not one squash has emerged. After doing a bit of detective work and research, I discovered that there is likely a problem with pollination. It seems that the local bees are not doing their job. Hmph! So the likelihood of our family enjoying spaghetti squash from our own garden is slim to none.
Of late I’ve been tempted to yank the entire plant out of the garden. It is simply taking up too much space and serves little use other than giving the false impression that my garden is flourishing and thriving. It bears no fruit and has little benefit aside from its outer beauty.
Then there are my green bean plants. I’ve lost count as to how many bowls full of beans we have picked and eaten. The eight or so plants that I have continue to produce a healthy, useful harvest every week. If you were to take a closer look at these plants, you would see plants that are far from lush and beautiful, and to the casual observer, one might assume that these plants are not producing fruit. There are small weeds scattered about, yellowing leaves, dry brown parts, thinness, and evidence of damage from insects. Beauty is certainly lacking.
Yet, when you stoop down and take the time to push aside the leaves and stems and weeds of these plants, when time is taken to look below the surface, a treasure trove of beans awaits. These plants, though outwardly not as attractive as my billowing spaghetti squash vine, have yielded much fruit. Even though one would assume that a beautiful plant would yield a beautiful crop and a homely plant would yield sub par fruit, these plants have shown me otherwise.
Outward appearances can certainly be deceiving.
I suppose this applies to our world today. How quick we can be to make determinations and judgements about people based solely upon what we see on the surface. We often take little to no time to actually look past what we see. We assign good qualities to those with beauty and poor qualities to those with a humble or even rough appearance. Superficiality is the name of the game in our society.
The Lord reminds us that the only way to truly know someone for who they are is by the fruit that they bear. Appearances are of no value to Him, but the heart is. In the busyness and craziness of life, we often leave little time to look at people at the heart level.
I’m thankful for the little reminders that the Lord sends to me through my little garden.
A few years ago I had the crazy idea that I would like to try my hand at gardening. That was a laughable proposal. I don’t have the best track record with plants. After neglecting houseplant after houseplant and watching them wither up and die, I finally declared to my husband that the only things I was responsible for keeping alive were the kids.
I can’t really call myself a gardener. I am better described as one who attempts to grow edible plants in a given space with limited success. Yep, that’s me!
It seems that each year has its comical growing disaster. There was the year that the Terminex man accidentally sprayed my entire garden with poison. In a fury I tore out the entire garden that summer. Then there was the time that some mysterious plant grew and grew and grew. It took over the entire bed and spilled into the driveway. It was some kind of squash plant, but it never bore fruit, and it simply wasted an entire growing season. Then there was the year that the deer ate nearly every consumable part of the garden, and the groundhog ate each and every melon (all of them). I could go on.
This year has been no different.
When planning out my growing space this year, I dedicated a rather large swath of ground space to grow Kirby cucumbers. It was my hope to make pickles this year. I had successfully grown cucumbers before but had never grown this variety or actually seen what the plant looked like. I planted my seeds and tended to them, and within due time, I saw little sprouts popping up. I was pleased…very pleased. Nearly all of my seeds had sprouted.
However, with time, my husband began to question what I was actually growing in that one spot of the garden.
“Kim, they’re weeds,” he would say.
“No they are not. They are growing only in the area where I planted the cucumber seeds…no where else. Look at how uniform they look…like someone planted them. They even have little white flowers on them…lots of them. We’ll have so many cucumbers we won’t know what to do with them. Just let them be ,” I would say.
It seemed that each week my husband and I would have this back and forth exchange. I always ended the conversation with the same line: “Just let them be.”
And we did. And those little plants grew and grew. More and more tiny white flowers bloomed. They grew strong and tall. I was waiting, just waiting to see the first sign of a little cucumber growing. Surely it would be any day now. There are tomatoes that are growing, beans that have been harvested, kale that is flourishing.
I waited and waited and waited. Nothing.
I finally had to admit that those “plants” were weeds…beautiful, flourishing, seemingly authentic, but garden robbing weeds nonetheless. I yanked them all out. What was left? A big, empty space, evidence of my refusal to see the truth. More time wasted.
Despite my best intentions, cucumbers were never destined to grow in my garden. Regardless of what the label on the front of my seed packet said, I had not planted and tended to cucumber seeds. I had spent my time watering and caring for weeds. Sounds awfully silly, doesn’t it? But how often do we cultivate weeds in our own lives?
I am always amazed at how easily weeds not only grow but thrive. Their job is to invade and steal the space and food that the good plants need to flourish. A garden where healthy, food giving plants and life-stealing weeds coexist is an unhealthy garden and one that is never destined to flourish as it could and will not bear good fruit (or vegetables for that matter).
If weeds are allowed to flourish in my life, how will I bear fruit? Those weeds, whether they be jealousy, anger, lust, laziness, selfishness, lack of self control, or a whole host of other struggles, will choke any good that I am feebly attempting to cultivate.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
So what does a good gardener do to battle the weeds? First, they need to identify the weeds. They need to acknowledge and see that they are present. They have to actually be looking for them. Then, they patiently and painstakingly work to pluck each and every one out. Just once? Oh, no. It is a daily exercise. New weeds sprout up all the time. Just as soon as the old weeds are pulled, new ones are just waiting to breakthrough the soil. Lastly, gardeners yank out those weeds from the root. Just superficially pulling off the visible portion of the weed won’t do. You’ve got to go to the source of the weed to kill it. You need to find the root. Sometimes that root is deep and strong, and it takes effort to extricate it.
What a picture the Lord provides us with here. What an illustration to each of us as it relates to our own lives. If it is my desire, with the help of the Lord, to cultivate good fruit in my life, as described in the fruit of the spirit passage above, I need to be working diligently like the gardener. I need to identify the areas in my life that are weeds. That’s the first step and sometimes the hardest. Then I need to be systematically removing them from my life. I need to be on my knees daily working to rid my life of those weeds. Most importantly, I need to be prayerfully trying to get to the root.
I am so thankful for the everyday lessons that the Lord sends along through His creation.