I cannot claim to be an excellent gardener. This year Colorado threw us all for a loop and decided it was perfectly okay to snow the Thursday following Mother’s day, and like many in the state who use the Mother’s day rule to plant things outdoors, I had already transplanted my tomatoes.
I probably should have read the farmers almanac. Maybe they knew that something like that was coming. Maybe they could have saved me the grief of agonizing over seeds that will never now bear fruit.
The other parts of my garden look well enough this year. The beet bed is my pride and joy, as long as I’ve weeded recently. This year we used some of our own compost to amend the soil, some of which was used straw from the goat shed, and if you are smarter than we were you can probably guess our mistake: there are all kinds of grass seeds trying to grow amongst my beets. And grass where you don’t want it, is actually pretty hard to pull up.
Try pulling a blade of grass up by the root. You’ll see what I mean.
It’s amazing how even something I would think of as a “good plant” has become such a burden and a nuisance. Among all the notoriously “bad plants”; the bind weeds, the dandelions, and a hundred other nameless weeds that call my raised garden beds home, now I also have to contend with grass that wants to grow where it absolutely does not belong.
I weed by hand. That’s the only way to feel if I’m doing it right. I get dirt under my finger nails and I feel the tug and pull of the roots under the earth, and I try and get just the right angle so I uproot only the bad, and keep my tiny beet seedlings intact. They are small, but growing larger every day. Soon, they may not even need me to take such care, but for now, it would be so easy to uproot what I want, while pulling what I don’t.
It strikes me that God weeds my life like this. He weeds it by hand, not afraid to get dirt under his nails. And though the soil seems to shift around me, and I can be afraid of what is coming next, if I trust that the Good Gardener knows what He is doing, I need not be afraid.
We have taken this season for a sabbatical from “formal” ministry life, but paring down is not always easy. Sometimes what looks like a healthy beet bed from the window is really just a bed full of weeds, the tiny beets barely distinguishable. And God wants more from us than that. More than just the signs of life, whatever they may be. He wants to give us full and abundant life; fruitful life.
So we have been paring down on things. We have been putting a pause on the small group we’ve led for the past four years. I’ve stopped serving in the nursery. Willy is taking a break from worship team. We have tried to set down what so often occupies our time. On Monday we took the TV off the wall and hung a picture up instead. We’re just trying to quiet the voices.
But sometimes the silence feels uncomfortable. Sometimes it reveals the invisible sins that have been hampering growth all along, but weren’t obvious to us.
The first hour after our last official small group meeting, I felt it like a gaping hole in my chest; the fear. For a recovering people pleaser, (and an Enneagram 2 if you’re into that) the most terrifying fear of all: that people only loved me for what I do, and not for who I am, and if I stopped doing what I had been, that they will leave me.
Because God cares about the heart—my heart—he doesn’t just look out from His back window at the beet bed of my heart and say, “Hey! It’s all full of green. Looks like Grace is doing a-ok!”
No. He wants me to bear fruit. And though my fears may motivate “right-looking actions”, God cares about my mixed motives. True, I serve because I really do love people, and I want to help, and I love God. But the dark side of that coin is that I also serve sometimes because I want to make myself indispensable. Because if I am indispensable, then no one will leave.
It’s tricky isn’t it? This space right now, this pared-down calendar, is giving God all kinds of room to pull out all the grass seeds that have mistakenly been growing where a flourishing vegetable garden ought to be. And though painful, that is a good, good thing.
It might seem counterintuitive to see any kind of rest as a hardship, but when you are a recovering perfectionistic people-pleaser, it can certainly feels like a sacrifice. And because I am still a stay-at-home Mom, in many ways, I am only laying down the service that in any way gets recognized. No one cheers me on for cleaning poop off of the carpet.
Quiet me in my smallness O Lord.
It’s hard to lay down those parts of me that I have wanted to claim as identity, as things that make me worthy of love, when God gently says, like the loving Father He is, “No, No Gracie. It’s me. Always and only me.”
If God has you in a season of paring down, weeding, or any kind of upheaval—know that you are not alone. Remember, that God weeds by hand, without the gloves, He isn’t afraid to get dirt under His nails. He is not embarrassed to be associated with you, just as He isn’t embarrassed to be associated with me. In the space that your season of hardship affords—in the quiet moments of isolation and loneliness—may He minister to you in your smallness, and show you the things that you’ve been hiding behind, that you really don’t need after all.
Have you been waiting for a written invitation to start planting seeds of hope in the midst of hardship in your own life? Consider this it!
Click here to download my recently released mini-ebook/devotional Scattered: A seven day journey toward planting seeds of hope in the soil of suffering.
Inside you will find:
-How lamenting before the Lord is actually the quickest path to trusting Him in the midst of heart break and disappointments.
-How looking around for gratitude will only bless you as you quiet yourself before the Lord.
-How to remember what God has done in the past, so you can trust Him with your future.
AND SO MUCH MORE.
If you are walking through something hard; then I made this for you. Let’s plant those seeds of hope like it’s our job, that we may cultivate a fruitful life wherever we are, by God’s grace and for his glory.