I surveyed the backyard and was overcome by the thousands and thousands of weeds in my garden. I had tried all through winter to weed small areas to avoid a full on rebellion come winter rains and spring warmth. I sighed. Then I got excited. This was the perfect analogy for my blog I realized. I never would have rejoiced over weeds before blogging but now laugh at my new perspective, “Weeds? A blessing??” Perhaps weeds are a blessing in disguise. They are my wake up call!
I liken weeds in the garden to sins in the hearts of people. I know that in my life I try and try and try and try and yet, the weeds, i.e., sins, can often come back. What’s a soul to do? Despair? Never! I learned in gardening that there is a great deal one can do to prevent weed return. Besides pulling weeds at the optimal time, i.e., after a good rain when the earth is soft, one can use a weed killer spray and even lay down weed cloth over a cleared area. I decided to give this weed removal a try. Sure enough, I have a nice clear area where the weeds were pulled, weed cloth laid in double layers and then bark or mulch layered on top. I did not need to use any harmful chemicals. Now I have a mostly weed-free area. It’s exciting but also encouraging. If I see a weed I just pull it out as close to the root as I can. Yes, it’s a lot of work but so worth it.
Take that inner inventory, be honest and then set to work rooting out the faults you find in your inner garden. God will help you, but stick with only one or two small areas so you won’t become overwhelmed and give up. And remember that slow and steady wins the race. You have to be diligent, persistent and consistent. Yes, you have to work constantly and work hard.
I think one of the most satisfying things about rooting out weeds is being able to spot them early on and prevent an outbreak. The more I go to the Sacrament of Confession the more I can root out my faults big and small. I get the Sanctifying Grace I need to carry on, overcome, and be healed of my sins. I also get those neat-o graces such as the gift of biting my tongue before I say something I’ll regret. That’s like spotting a weed and nabbing it before it can grow, seed and take over the garden. Confession is awesome for the inner gardener because without it, the weeds will overtake the soul and choke out the grace of God.
I had to smile when I looked up basic gardening tips. The UK Telegraph (link) has a basic list and number 8 is “Be brutal with weeds.” Vindication! I could not agree more! Be ruthless with weeds. But watch out for those seeds.
Why do weeds come back?
Weeds, it turns out, go down very deep. Some weed types have a corm-like seed that detaches when you pull up the weeds. In order to really remove a weed, each plant must be dug around and pulled out so that the root ball and corms are visible. Then one can choose to shake the dirt loose and discard the weed roots and all while saving rich soil. I learned the hard way in a drought year that they may come out but then the dry winds blow the seeds around my garden. What I needed was a Master Gardener to advise me but I instead decided to go it alone. And just like gardening, to get deep enough I will need a lot of grace and guidance to help me root out my faults otherwise they are just going to sprout somewhere else.
Once you get a pile of weeds, you can choose to compost them and risk them reseeding or you can burn them in a bonfire. That’s an ancient method that even Christ mentions. St. Gertrude the Great tells us that His Heart is a raging furnace. We can put into His Sacred Heart all the things we need burnt up in His fire of Divine Love. So, when you spy a fault in your enclosed soul garden, grab it, dig deep around it and then throw it in the Fire of God’s Love to be burnt up by going to the Sacrament of Confession and telling Jesus about these faults and sins. Some people get the grace of preservation never to commit that sin again. Others get the graces of deliverance and perseverance needed to avoid committing that same sin. Even if the same weed crops up for your entire lifetime please, promise yourself that you’ll continue returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that you can prevent that sin taking root and killing your inner garden.
Don’t go it alone
In the spiritual life it is best to have wise counsel alongside. I did not consult my elderly mother, who is a marvelous gardener, and hence my mistakes. The weeds would disappear for a while giving me false comfort only to reappear and demolish my resolve. Many hands make for light work in the spiritual life as well.
It’s not all bad news
Did you notice when you surveyed your inner garden that not every area was weed infested or storm damaged? That’s good. We should take comfort and rejoice in the areas of our inner garden that are still intact or even flourishing and bearing fruit. Thank God for that and ask Him to preserve those areas in His grace. Don’t forget your enemy the devil is just waiting to blow more weed seeds into your inner garden so be very vigilant and root out any weeds you detect. Use prayer as a great weed and enemy deterrent and the Sacraments as powerful weed killers. And let’s not cast everything into a negative light. Prayer will help you grow in virtue and inner beauty and the Sacraments will give you the nourishment you need to produce good fruit.
Thinking of prayer and Sacraments in this way is so positive that perhaps the first steps for a Lenten springtime should be to resolve to pray more and get to the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist more often. That is where the best soul gardening occurs. Two of the best sayings I’ve heard helped me during many a Lenten garden makeover. The first is, “Do something different during Lent so that at Easter something will be different.” The second is, “The pain of discipline is less than the pain of regret.”
Start dreaming with God about what you and He want to plant in your inner garden.
© 2019 Frances Peterson
Photo credit: Frances Peterson. Used with permission of this author.