Spiritual Lawn Maintenance

I’ve been thinking a lot about weeds and overgrown plants lately.  Mostly because with all the rain we’ve had this summer, it seems like everything in our yard is on steroids!  Yardwork is not our favorite thing to do; it’s a necessity when owning a house but we are not the kind of people who work in their yard for pleasure.  We do, however, love the result of a well-cared for landscape.  We just don’t like the work involved in creating it.

Another barrier to a beautiful lawn is knowledge.  What is that plant, anyway?  Is it a weed?  Or is it a flower?  What is the proper time and way to prune?  What should we plant in that bare spot?  And can I just pull something up and get rid of it because I don’t like the way it looks?

I often feel like my spiritual life looks like my yard, and there are times when I feel just as overwhelmed in knowing how to make changes which lead to the desired result of Christ-likeness.  And keeping up with the maintenance?  Well, that’s a challenge too!

There are three things that need to be dealt with if we want a beautiful yard or garden.  These three have spiritual parallels for us.  Let’s examine them.

Weeds

Weeds are imposters.  After all, they’re green too, and some varieties even produce flowers.  But a weed is still a weed and needs to be eliminated and pulled up by its roots.  The parallel is easy.  We can be deceived into allowing sinful things to creep into our lives and before we know it, the ground of our heart is covered, and the weeds are taking over, stealing whatever beauty and joy we might have had.

Some examples might be the ugly words we spoke in anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, hatred, desire for revenge, hurts that we hold onto.  These are the weeds that creep in without our noticing.  Then there are the more obvious ones such as the list of fleshly deeds in Galatians 5:19-21: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, strife, jealousy, envying, drunkenness, etc.

What weeds are growing in your life that need to be pulled out?  What “little sins” are you allowing, thinking that they don’t matter?  What thoughts or actions has God’s Spirit been convicting you of, but you are wavering, delaying, because you don’t want to get rid of them?  Like weeds, those little sins will spread and multiply before you know it.

Ephesians 4:22-24 – That in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

James 1:13-15 – Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Overgrown Plants

Sometimes too much of a good thing is too much.  We had a shrub in front of our house that for a time served us well.  But it grew too big.  It shut out the light coming into our windows.  It crowded out the azaleas planted next to it.  And when the snow storm came, it collapsed and became misshapen, and even uglier.  Many plants are fast-growing, and when allowed to grow freely, they can take over part of the yard you never intended to give up. We have a butterfly bush in our backyard that has been cut down to the ground a couple of times.  Yet by the end of the summer, it’s over-reaching and out of control if we do not prune it regularly.

Good things in our life that crowd out the best things must be dealt with. They might have been innocent and good in the beginning but grow to obscure the truly beautiful things God wants our life to be.  A good example is our work.  A man needs to make a living and provide for his family.  Work is a good thing, and we are commanded to work (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 2 Thessalonians 3:8-12, Ephesians 4:28).  But a career can take over our lives; we become so busy chasing success and the pleasures and comforts of the world that success offers, that we crowd out the better things of family, worship, and relationships. How big of a house do we truly need?  Will that promotion really satisfy us?

Like our overgrown shrub, allowing lesser things to grow too important in our lives will block out the light.  We will grow used to the dimness, and it will become normal.  And when the storms come, what we are building our life on will collapse.

Matthew 6:27-29 – And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.

Dying Plants

We have several shrubs that look great from the front and top, but if you examine the trunk and the back, you’ll see that they are dying.  The branches are bare, brown and colorless.  The ugliness is spreading and soon the entire bush will die, but since it is “sort of” serving its purpose, it still holds its place in the landscape.

These remind me of the times in our life when we need to let go of something but just can’t bear to give it up.  Maybe it’s a relationship, or a job, or a friendship.  Maybe it’s something you do as your part of serving in the body, because, well, you’ve always done it, but it no longer brings you joy or produces effective results.  Sometimes we must let go of things, trusting that their season is over and that God has something better, something new, in mind for you.

Isaiah 43:19 – Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

It also reminds me of the way we can often present ourselves to others.  We hide our hurts, our failures, our disappointments, our depression, our fears, and put on a good front to everyone around us.  Instead of exposing the dying roots of our soul and allowing the body of Christ to help us heal and change, we go on in our own strength, not realizing that the decay is spreading into every part of our lives.  We need to be accountable, to let others speak truth into our lives, to “fertilize” our soul with love and grace, and gently help us cut away the things that need to go.

James 5:13-16 – Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

When your yard is in trouble, you call in the expert.  Likewise, as believers, we can go to the Master Gardener, our Father the Vinedresser, that Jesus tells us about in John 15.

We ask Him to prune away the parts of our life that no longer bring Him glory.

We ask Him to restore us to the True Vine so that His Spirit-life flows in ours.

We seek to abide, to stay connected, to live in His presence so that His love and His joy is made full in us.

We ask Him to grow us in faith, love, holiness, maturity, love, grace, and the knowledge of Christ – all the things He intended us to have and that exhibit that His life does indeed flow through our spiritual roots, bringing fruitfulness and beauty.

What’s growing in your garden this summer?

What needs to be pulled out, pulled up, or cut back?

What do you want to grow instead?

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