To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self. Ephesians 4:22-24
After many excuses to avoid cleaning up my backyard, I had to face the truth that it needed clearing badly. I was fortunate that hubby was in a good mood to help, so together, we spent one day of our Christmas break uprooting the unwanted invaders.
Little did I know that there was a divine purpose to the exercise. As I started to break the further growth with my left-over strength from the holiday gatherings, although it was not fun at the start, undertaking the hard yakka gave me such a joyful reward.
As I diligently hand-pulled and hoed the weeds, the workout led me to reflect on my spiritual health too. How healthy have I been spiritually? I experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus, had my Baptism in the Spirit in 2000, and I have had many humbling privileges and opportunities to become a better person through the leading of the Holy Spirit. There were many “ouch” moments of growth that challenged me to work harder, not so much in trying to perfect myself (for there is no such thing as perfection here on earth), but yes, getting closer in holiness in my walk with God was possible every day, as long as I tried. But have I really worked hard this year towards this goal? Covid19 detracted me from my focus, as I got immersed instead in fear, anxiety, uncertainty, grief and bereavement for friends and community who lost loved ones, jobs, property and peace this year.
Well, in my weeding time, I was confronted by different kinds. A weed is “a plant that causes economic losses or ecological damages, creates health problems for humans or animals or is undesirable where is it growing.”
There was the field bindweed, a hardy perennial vine that has been given many names. Google says that, unfortunately, tilling and cultivation seem to aid bindweed spread. The best control is early intervention, and seedlings must be removed before becoming perennial. After that, buds are formed, and successful control is more difficult. Lord, what is in me that is like the bindweed? Pride, lust, lies, offense, arrogance, prejudice?
Then there is the quackgrass, a creeping, persistent perennial grass that is reproducible by seeds. Its long, jointed, straw-coloured rhizomes form a heavy mat in soil, from which new shoots may also appear. We are advised to dig out this fast-growing grass as soon as we see it in our garden. We need to be sure to dig up the entirety of the plant (including the roots) and dispose of it in our waste bin rather than the compost pile, as it will likely continue to grow in the latter! Lord, what is my quackgrass? Gossip, envy, malice, jealousy, materialism, laziness?
This next weed I truly dislike. Canada thistle is an aggressive, creeping perennial weed from Eurasia. It infests crops, pastures, ditch banks and roadside. If Canada thistle becomes rooted, the experts say, the best control is to stress the plant and force it to use stored root nutrients. Yet, believe it or not, this weed can be edible! Lord, what is my Canada thistle? Stress, worry, anxiety, control, over-confidence, self-sufficiency?
The next one I dealt with was the nutsedges, perennial weeds that superficially resemble grasses, but they are thicker, stiffer, and V-shaped. Their leaves are arranged in sets of three from their base. The presence of nutsedge often indicates that soil drainage is poor or waterlogged. However, once nutsedge is established, it isn’t easy to control. Lord, what is my nutsedge? Lack of prayer time, laziness to study your Word, being lukewarm in sharing the Good News to others, lack of compassion, diminished empathy, anger, impatience, irritability, lack of gratitude?
Then there is the low-growing buckhorn plantain, which makes it difficult to remove by hand. This plant has a long taproot so that it can become drought-tolerant. So, to remove this weed, be diligent about pulling up young plants and destroying them before the plants go to seed. As a last resort, several herbicides are effective. Lord, what is my buckhorn plaintain? Addictive behaviour, selfishness, gluttony, vanity, getting into debt, depressive and oppressive tendencies?
Ah, and this one- we can learn to love them- dandelions with their bright yellow heads in the springtime. They provide an important food source for bees early in the year, too. In time, dandelions will also take over from your garden, and they have the most- weedy characteristics. Removing dandelions by hand-pulling or hoeing is often futile unless done repeatedly over a long period because of established plants’ deep tap root system. Lord, what is my dandelion? Narcissism, over-spending time on social media, games and videos, thinking negatively, making too many excuses, playing the blame game, spending too much time with toxic people, procrastinating, people-pleasing?
The site mentioned that of approximately 250,000 species of plants worldwide, only about 3% behave as weeds that we don’t want in cultivated areas. “Weeds” aren’t inherently bad. Many weeds stabilise the soil and add organic matter. Some are edible to humans and provide habitat and food for wildlife, too.
This has given me much hope – that I can use and turn my weaknesses, bad habits, ingrained sinfulness and limitations to good use by asking the Lord for help and healing, becoming fully dependent on Him to prune me and use me for His purpose. I know that change is hard, and some essential changes can only be made with God’s help.
If we sincerely seek God and ask the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the promised Helper, God knows the struggles we face and encourages us to come to Him for the extra help we need (Matthew 7:7-8; Hebrews 4:15-16; 1 Peter 5:6-7). God doesn’t do all the work for us, but He offers help to make us more effective.
The New Year is an opportunity to start this process of regeneration, rejuvenation and renewal. Let’s take it as both a challenge and a rewarding time.