The other day, a very rare thing happened. It was a Saturday – and we had zero. plans. Finally, after the rush of youth camp and getting ready for vacation, and back to school, and normal this-has-to-happen-on-Saturday-because-there’s-no-other-time-to-do-it weekends, we didn’t have anything to do or anywhere to be.
Also, our area had been experiencing temperatures at or near 100 degrees for nearly a month, and we’d been under smoke cover for days. Terrible air quality plus hot temperatures equals STAY INSIDE. Finally, we had a weekend with no plans and much cooler temperatures and even blue sky!! So I let the teens sleep in a small amount (school did just start after all), but by 9:30 I was pushing them out the door to do some much needed yard work.
I feel I need to confess something right now. I despise working in the yard. After years of renting apartments (and growing up in a condominium that was still really an apartment) I thought I would love having a yard and being able to plant things and care for them. I do not love this. I’ve tried planting flowers; they die. The best I’m able to do is grow some basil and mint in containers on my deck. I have fantasies about hardscaping half of my back yard – it’s like my ultimate solution to all my problems. Just pave it. Do you know what grows really well in my yard? Weeds. So many different kinds of weeds, all over the backyard. And they were starting to pop up in the front, in areas where you wouldn’t think anything could take root. (I had a sumac sapling coming up at the base of the driveway. An actual baby tree. It’s gone now.)
The thing is, I know that if I were to go outside regularly, I would be able to catch these weeds and pull them while they are small. Just a few minutes at a time would get me the results of, if not a beautiful oasis of a backyard, at least less effort over the course of the summer. Every year (in the fall) I semi-resolve to be better about it, but then March comes around and it’s still cold and rainy and then suddenly I have all these tall weeds. It seems to happen that fast.
So in this particular weekend, I had the 13 year old garden-gloved up and helping me. When she finished with the ones she was able to actually pull, I had her grab a small garden shovel and try to dig one out of the ground. She gave it about 30 seconds, then sat down and said it was too hard to dig out. I told her to keep working, and gave her the object lesson of what happens when we allow bad things to take root in our lives. It isn’t pleasant but we have to dig them out.
After less than an hour, our container was full and I had her take a step back into the cul-de-sac to take a look at our progress. I had noticed that she was doing the thing I do – focusing closely on the weeds in a particular area, on the imperfections, and how much work was left – that she wasn’t seeing how much we’d actually done. So I had her step back.
And you know what, every once in a while we all have to step back. We know what we’re supposed to do to deal with sin in our lives, and it’s easy to think we have to keep going and keep going, but I think it is okay to take a step back and observe how much we’ve actually done. How much God has done. How much we’ve changed in a relatively short period of time.
A life that doesn’t look perfect can still show progress. In my yard, my grass is still basically nonexistent, and I have dead branches on a tree (and no room in the receptacle until after garbage day). I have no more flowers planted in front of my house today than I did when I started pulling weeds. It does not look anywhere close to perfect. But I can see the progress. I know that I’ve done something to prevent those weeds from rooting deeper and spreading.
It’s the same for our lives. Don’t give up on the “routine maintenance” in your heart, but give yourself permission, every once in a while, to step back and see the progress. Celebrate the changes. Give yourself the gift of acknowledging how far you’ve come from where you started, and give thanks to God for the opportunities to continue to grow – without some of those pesky “weeds” in your way!