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by Heather Bock
Last week, I wrote about the sin metaphors that run through my head every time I attack the large amounts of weeds in my yard. If you didn’t get to read it, you might want to click here to read it first. I gave several similarities between weeds and sin, but many more remain.
Once a gardener prioritizes which weeds to pull, she needs to do it right.
When I pull weeds, I much prefer to do it with my kids’ help rather than doing it alone. The only problem is that even though I tell my kids how to do it, it takes some practice and maturity to start doing it right. My nine year old, Mr. C, does a pretty good job at it, and thankfully, he’s taking my four year old, JP, under his wing, gently correcting him when he does something wrong. JP often just grabs clumps indiscriminately and dumps them in the bucket (which isn’t always bad in certain sections of our “lawn”). Not only that, but when he does actually get a weed (he’s starting to tell the difference under Mr. C’s tutelage), he just pulls the top off.
I’ve told Mr. C to grab the weed by the center to get it out. If he pulls on the side of the plant, it will just break off, slowing it down a bit, but still leaving the healthy root ready to produce more leaves and thorns. Some weeds’ roots pull out easily by the center, but some need more intervention than that–some need a weeding tool to push down into the soil to loosen the dirt around the deep taproot, freeing it. He knows if he doesn’t get it out entirely, it will quickly come back.
Sin is this way. We could rip at it without much thought, stifling the outward signs of it through behavior modification methods. These methods are not all bad, but the sin will just come back like those half-torn weeds if we don’t get to the root of the issue and kill it there. Why do I lose patience with my kids when I hear them bickering once again? Yes, it’s partly because hearing the angry tones of your children is never enjoyable, not for anyone, but it can also be because they are inconveniencing me–I have to go parent (never mind the fact that parenting is my most important job) when I want to finish something else. Why is finishing that task so important to me? It could be selfishness or not trusting God to help me find time for it later or something else entirely. We need to go back to the root and find out what the real issue is. We can do this by thinking and questioning ourselves, but the Word of God will help. After all, “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
Another problem I have when I weed with my kids is that they come across pretty ones that seem to have value. My daughter, Little E, picks the flowers, occasionally bringing me little short-lived bouquets of bright yellow dandelions or purple henbit. My sons, when they were weeding the other day, discovered a patch of mock strawberries and gave them to me to put in a vase. This isn’t a real problem until one of them starts chiding me for ripping these seemingly good plants out of our lawn.
You see, I, as an adult, know from experience what my littles don’t yet. When I see a lawn looking pretty, dotted with cheerful golden dandelions, my mind fast-forwards that lawn past the bright flowers, past the cute puffs, and right to the empty stalks waving in the breeze. I see the big jagged leaves choking out my grass. I see what my lawn will look like if I let that continue five or ten years.
Sin sometimes looks attractive. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” When we’re young in the faith, and especially when we don’t know the Word very well, we don’t always know that something we’re inclined to do is sin. It might even feel right, and when we read Scripture, we may wonder why in the world God forbids one action or another.
This is why we’ve got to not only study the Bible but also look to “fathers” and “mothers” in the faith. Many of them have been there and have seen the end result of certain actions–when the pretty flowers turn to the destruction of a lawn. Above all, we need to look to our Father in heaven to distinguish between healthy plants and invasive ones.
For example, getting even with someone, either directly or passive aggressively, can feel pretty good. I’ve seen many movies where the good guy gives the bad guy his comeuppance–The Princess Bride, anybody? We have in us a God-given desire for justice, but this justice needs to be meted out by God or the law He has put in power, not by our own hand, even if it looks like God won’t ever do the job. Romans 12:19 says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” I love how Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet show the devastation caused when we let the deadly weed of vengeance grow.
Once my kids have completed their thirty minutes of yard work, they dump the contents of their buckets in the garbage can, and they’re out of there, leaving their gloves and weeding tools strewn on the ground (I need to work on that). However, I’m in my weeding mode by that point. It’s hard to tear myself away, and I often work an additional half hour or more. I become zealous against the weeds. Last week, the boys and I went on a walk after weeding, and it was all I could do to stop myself from pulling weeds from other people’s front yards.
This is the kind of mood we need to ask God to give us for weeding the sin out of our lives. Unlike my kids who weed under duress and then drop it as soon as they can, may our hunt for sin be zealous.
P.S. Stay tuned for Part Three, coming next week!