Ever prayed for something that seems good and reasonable and God's answer, over and over again, is "no?" It's frustrating. Lately mine has been asking him if I can get a traditional full-time job. There's a hit to my pride when I meet new people and they ask, "So what do you do?"
What sounds more adult-like? What will sound more impressive? Somehow mucking horse stalls, cleaning houses, doing yard work and being a live-in nanny feels more like an answer a sixteen-year-old might give. I have to bite my tongue to not slip in the fact that I've traveled to 19 countries, have a college degree, a certification to teach English as a second language from Cambridge, international mission experience and four published novels.
Pride! The desire to look good for others is painfully overpowering instead of the humility to admit God is taking me on a journey I don't quite understand yet but trust will work out for my good. I believe I've reached a place of accepting, gratefully, what He has given. It helps to have some insight to what it is He wants me to do in all of these jobs that provide everything I need.
One of the jobs I have involves a lot weeding. A friend of mine has over 25 acres of land that hasn't been touched in two years, and the previous owner did a lot of beautiful landscaping. My job has been to clean up what has been neglected over the years and prepare the place for an upcoming wedding.
I love the work. There's something satisfying about being in the dirt with the sun beating down on my back, a cool breeze and ripping objects out of the ground that were never meant to grow there. My dog, Meg, gets to run around the property with a couple of labs and when the work is done I get to jump on a horse and ride for a little while. Not to mention I get to spend some extra time with people I love and do ministry with.
Some of the weeds I pull are highly satisfying to rip up. Grabbing hold of the thick stalk at the base, I pull at just the right angle and it gives quite easily, tugging up a large chunk of dirt at the base with it. I shake the dirt free, toss the weed into a bucket and move on.
There's a particular weed I can't stand. It can grow into a fairly large bush and is riddled with thorns. From a distance it looks kind of fuzzy, but it's a painful deception because when you grab hold - even with tough gloves on - it becomes very apparent those fuzzy bits are actually microscopic barbs. The only way to dig up this useless thing is with a spade.
One thing the Lord has shown me in all of my weeding, however, gave me insight to what He's doing in my life. Pulling out the bigger weeds or the taller chunks of grass out of bark and dirt is satisfying and productive. But when the larger pieces are removed, it's easier to see the much smaller weeds growing in droves under and around where the larger weeds were. The temptation to ignore them and move on is enormous.
So much of this last year of my life God has been ripping up the big weeds in my character. That thorny attitude of "screw you" when I feel hurt and scared - yep, needs to go. This beautiful but toxic one called manipulation - gone. This thing that has a flower attached to it known as recognition - goodbye.
It feels good, even though it's sometimes painful, to rip those up and toss them in the trash. However, in doing so, I'm noticing the smaller weeds that riddle the ground of my heart that need a lot more patience, attention and intention in order to remove. The roots are smaller, but they go down deep. It's easy to pull the leaves off and call it good, but the root remains. The weeds may be small and not very visible, but if not dug out of the ground they will grow back stronger and stronger until, like the bigger ones, they choke the righteousness God has planted to grow.
They're the kind of weeds that make your fingers and hands cramp because you're in a constant position of pinching and digging. These weeds are the sins that happen in private that wouldn't necessarily be considered a big deal to many people. They're the things "everyone does" or the attitudes that "make sense" given the circumstances. They're the ones that don't seem that bad and yet, if left alone, end up taking over the ground.
We can't escape sin (Romans 3:23). If you have a garden you'll never escape having weeds. Unless you decide to plant your flowers or vegetables in a raised garden bed, isolated from the world. Unless you live an isolated Christian life, never leaving your little box of religion and never engaging in relationship or actually living out the gospel, you'll always have sin (John 16:33).
The point isn't to be without the weeds, it's to stay on top of weeding (Matthew 4:17). To have a landscape like my friend desires, the work will never end because there is constant maintenance. I'm happy with that - it means job security!
In my walk with the Lord I'm learning that in order to pursue righteousness as He's commanded me to, I need to have the humility to repent, to weed, every day (2 Timothy 2:22). Not from a position of obligation, but as a loving response to his promise of a flourishing garden if I stay on top of it. I need to receive the grace to know that it will never be completely free of weeds, but that God will guide me to rip up what needs to be removed in His way and timing.
Whether you're in the process of pulling out the big weeds, or digging up the smaller ones, take comfort in the fact that in Christ our heavenly Father sees you as the perfect son or daughter He designed from the beginning. He treats you as if you don't have any weeds at all, but loves you enough to help you be what He already sees.
Every area of character He works on today is preparing you for a greater intimacy with Him tomorrow.