Spiritual Lessons from My Yard
The last few weekends have provided us with weather that looks suspicious like spring! Working in my yard rejuvenates my soul. I love the immediate visible feedback of a cut lawn or weeded flowerbed. As I work, my mind can relax and mull things over. I wanted to share some of my observations and thoughts that came to me as I reflected on my work and the parables that Jesus taught.
Matt. 13:1-24 contains the parable of the four soils: hard, rocky, weedy, and good. The seed (Word of God) cannot take deep root unless the soil has been tilled, nourished, and rocks & weeds removed. Only by God’s grace, His discipline, and the help He gives us from other people can we become good soil. Many of us are aware of our own natural tendency, whether it is to hardheartedness, lack of deep roots, or a life of “weeds.” When I first became a disciple in the UW campus, I loved how this parable could explain why people did not respond or made poor decisions in response to Christianity.
Last year, my wife and I planted a row of cedar-like trees (thuja) as a hedge. I am not an expert gardener and did not get sufficient advice. I dug a fairly large hole for each tree, partially filled it with cedar grove, inserted the tree, and packed more cedar grove around the tree. Cedar grove is extremely rich soil. It contains many nutrients and has the ability to retain water. However, as I learned the hard way, it should be mixed with the soil rather than used as the primary soil component.
This spring a strong windstorm blew over many of the trees. I had to redig the hole and replant each of them. Some of the trees had grown their roots into the cedar grove, but the cedar grove was too light to keep them in the ground. As I reach out to others, I sometimes find that I am trying to take a bunch of cedar grove and dump it into a hole in their life and get the gospel to grow. This cedar grove might consist of lots of extra friendship or Bible studies where I am doing all the initiating. Instead, I need to work with them and get the cedar grove thoroughly mixed into their life so that they can develop soil that will support a future root system, even in the great windstorms of life.
Are you an initiator? Or do you sometimes feel left out, or wish others included you more often? I encourage you to consider whether your spiritual growth is solely due to others initiating with you, or whether you have proactively worked to develop your faith. Putting down roots beyond the “cedar grove” requires work, but it is well-worth it in the windstorms of life!
Another lesson I learned came from pulling weeds the other day. This used to be my least favorite activity as a kid, but by God’s grace, now I don’t mind it and even can enjoy it. As I pulled some dandelions, I realized that they have many admirable spiritual qualities! First of all, their goal in life seems to be reproduction, which makes them extremely difficult to remove entirely from my yard. They can flower and go to seed in a matter of weeks.
Second, they find a way to flourish in a wide variety of circumstances. They grow very tall and very rapidly in good soil. However, they can also put down roots in soil that is almost completely rocky. I am often tempted to believe that I need to improve my circumstances to become more spiritual. However, the dandelion shows me that I can put down roots just about anywhere.
Lastly, if Satan is the dandelion-puller and I am a plant, I want to have roots like the dandelion. If you use a shovel or try to pull out a dandelion, you risk accidentally cutting or breaking the root. Dandelion roots can easily regenerate the entire plant. This is because the root contains a great deal of energy that it devotes to regrowing the plant. Sometimes when I pull up a dandelion and finally get the whole root, I can see a thickened base which shows that the dandelion has survived multiple weeding attempts.
Trouble, challenges, and difficulties are simply part of being human. In John 16:33, Jesus promises, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The parable of the wise & foolish builders (Mt. 7:24-27) also shows that the storms of life will come against every house. Being part of the church is no guarantee against these challenges. Peter was part of Jesus’ inner circle, and yet Jesus allowed Satan to sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31‑32). “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Two things stand out to me. First, Jesus prayed for Simon that his faith would not fail. Let us not forget to pray for our brothers and sisters that their faith will be strong! Second, Jesus was confident that Simon would stand the test (“WHEN you have turned back) and that this experience would enable him to minister to others.
This life God has given us is uncertain. Some of us will live relatively “normal” lives. Some of us will face extreme challenges. Tom Jones of DPI and our own Angie Chandler have had to face extreme health challenges. Roger & Marcia Lamb and our own Ron & Linda Brumley have sadly watched their children walk away from God. What would you do in these situations? Where are your spiritual roots?
As Christians, Satan wants to uproot each of us. Even if he cuts off my top like a dandelion, I am determined to be a spiritual survivor. I encourage all of us to put down deep, persistent roots in the Word of God and relationships in the Body of Christ. Once we have stood the test, we will be even better prepared to strengthen our brothers and sisters!