The Little Red Hen, “Round Up”, and Weeds
A Good Friday Meditation on April 3, 2015
By Jane Tawel
I think I could write a whole blog series about things I hate. I’m not so sure I could write more than a couple posts about things I love. Wow. What does that say about me? I think it says that I am cultivating violence more than I am peace; anger more than I am joy; despair more than I am faith; and oh, yeah, duh, hate more than I am love. I think it means my hope cup is half empty – maybe three-quarters empty? Speaking of cultivating–
One thing I hate is gardening. I do have friends whose solace and creativity are best experienced in their gardens. I admire their handiwork and their ability to turn off their brains in the natural world. One reason I still run most mornings and run alone is because I have to work really hard at making my body turn off my brain. Running has always helped me do that. Walking – nope. Too slow to outrun that tricky brain of mine. Working out at the gym –nope, too many people sweatily surrounding me that I can envy or criticize there.
I run in the mornings and the earlier the better. If you are older, like I, you will know what I mean when I say that my brain tends to wake up before I do. About 1:00 am, sometimes 2:00 am, my brain says: “Good morning, sweetie, you can try to keep our body sleeping but I have some distressing things to worry about so don’t mind me if I churn along in here, negotiating world peace and fixing all your kids.” You know that movie about the famous smart guy whose body doesn’t work but his brain does? Well, I am like, excuse me?! but what is the big deal with that? Isn’t that true for all moms? I mean, does anyone want to do a movie about my useless body at 2:00 am with a mind running along like the fictitious bullet train of California?!?!? (By the way, if anyone out there does want to do a movie about that? – Have I got a deal for you. I am very cheap.)
Most of my friends who love gardening, hate running. Hmmmmmmm…….
I hate gardening because I hate weeding. Weeding does nothing to relieve my stress but is simply a working metaphor for what my brain has been doing since 2:00 am. “A-HA! Here’s a new weed for you, Jane Karen!”(Both Satan and God tend to use my childhood name a lot.) And I’m like, “Brain of mine, didn’t we pull that very same weed just yesterday?” I’m sure of it. It’s the same dang weed!
Definition of a weed:( noun) A plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one that grows where it is not wanted and often grows or spreads fast or takes the place of desired plants.
That definition of weeds is exactly why I hate gardening — and thinking. Weeds take the place of desired plants. Weeds are unwanted, undesired, unattractive, troublesome and show up where and when they are not wanted. That is the exact same definition of worry. And irritation. And hateful thoughts. And cellulite, come to think of it.
When I garden, I have a task in mind. Raoul and I used to joke about how our gardening attitudes reflected our inner attitudes. When Raoul was a little boy, he decided to grow orchids from seeds. I, on the other hand, spent my early years on a farm, surrounded by farmers, who grew stuff to eat, and then to can and eat in the winters. So Raoul is affectionately known as the “Orchid Grower”, and I am known as the “Potato Farmer”.
I plant practical. Tomatoes, since now it is the only way to get tomatoes that do not taste like a cut- up sales circular. Basil, Cilantro, peppers. You would think it would be easy to plant in Southern California, but not so much. The ground is pretty rocky here, not a lot of top soil in the desert. Also, nothing kills the dang weeds. I mean snow and hard freezes are good for something, right? I don’t mind planting. But before you plant, you have to weed. Actually, before you plant, while you plant, after you plant – weed, weed, weed. Some days, I go out to water my little tomato plants, and you guessed it – the little sneaky sniper squatters are all over the garden, setting up their crummy little squatter tents and trashing up my lovely little farm. If you do not believe me, here is a picture of my tomato farm with obvious weed squatters:
The exact same thing happens to the garden in my brain. I go to bed with prayer in mind and the minute I turn off the light, the sniper thought shoots a bullet of worry straight to my heart. At 2:00 am I turn over onto my left side and find, “WHOA! Isn’t that the same dang worry that grew on this side last night?!”I wake up in the morning, head to my coffee plantation in the kitchen and yowza – aren’t those the same dirty dishes in the sink from last month? Worry and irritation like weeds is at every turn I make. So I start doing that thing where you think on good things like Paul suggests in Philippians 4:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
You thought I’d somehow end with this great idea, right? And as a reader, you would be brought ‘round to this lovely sense of peace, faith, hope and joy. But NOPE! Guess again, because the minute I stop meditating on good things, and thinking up all three of the Bible passages I have memorized, I wake up to find the SAME DANG WEEDS!! Because here it is — the truth that we all know – If I don’t worry about it; If I don’t get upset about that: If I don’t take care of that problem; THEN WHO WILL??? I can guarantee you that I will not wake up today to find all my kids and husband out on my tomato farm weeding it for me! And neither will I find them out there worrying and getting upset about the things they should be worrying about like getting killed in a crosswalk or that person they are dating, or being irritated about what they should be irritated about like that teacher, or being angry about things they should be angry about like global warming and ants – nope, I have to do all that for them.
But just like the little red hen, I will weed and plow, and worry and get upset, but I will still share my tomatoes and wheat and overwhelming angst with my little chicks. (If however, you are a goat or a cow reading this, the little red hen does not share the fruits of her labor with you! This is where the little red hen veers a bit from biblical teaching but this blog is already running too long so I’ll save that metaphor.
Okay, now is the point where I talk about all the farming metaphors in the Bible right? You are already thinking of bunches of them with which to counsel me and help me with aren’t you? Please never stop doing that. But here is the thing – no matter what I believe about my garden, no matter how I want to see it, no matter how I care for it or pray for it or love it – there will always, always, always in this world, be weeds. Here is what Jesus says about weeds:
Matthew 13:29: “No,” he replied, “because while you are pulling the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them.”
So we don’t take this literally, as if Jesus is saying, don’t get rid of weeds in your garden or bad thoughts in your mind because that would make senseless the rest of everything He said. BUT could it be, that in trying to get rid of weeds and bad thoughts, my focus or intent is wrong, and therefore, I am yanking up good thoughts and good plants as well?
My husband got concerned when in order to put in my tomatoes this year, I had to rip out a giant swath of mint. If you have never planted it, mint is good like a plant, bad like a weed. Great if you plant it in a pot, but unless you want it to take over your yard, or perhaps your whole city, you plant it with caution. So could the same be said about the “bad” thoughts in my brain?
I worry about my kids because I love them. I worry about my husband’s health, because I love him. I worry about how much water I am using because there is a drought. I get irritated at other drivers because they are dangerous. I feel hatred toward violence because it kills souls. I get angry at myself and others for being greedy because it is a false idol that gains the world but loses the souls.
When I see weeds in my garden, I begrudgingly get to work on the garden because I want lovely, healthy tomatoes this summer. So when, I get worried, or irritated, or angry, or hateful – I should get to work. If I blindly, forcefully rip out the weeds completely like I did the mint, then there is only arid soil. No good plants either. But if I look at the weed, look at the worry, look at the irritation, and decide, I can remove you without harming good thoughts. If I am careful, discerning, truthful, loving, at peace – then I will not in rash anger Roundup Herbicide my bad thoughts (like I did the weeds in that pesky patch by the driveway with the promise from the Home Depot Gal that nothing will grow there for a WHOLE YEAR! “are you sure that’s what you want?” oh yeah.) But Jesus says, don’t annihilate your whole thought garden and risk losing the important fruit I want you to get, so you can do good garden work in the world. “Jane Karen (my childhood name)”, God says, “I want you to live in shalom, completeness, with the weeds and the wheat. I’ll take care of the garden.”
And this is what prayer does. Finally, a smidgeon of a reassurance. When my brain wakes up at 2:00 am, I am not supposed to ignore her little weed worries, or say the ABC’s until the angry thought is neutralized, or try to remember if “my cup runneth over” comes before or after “surely goodness and mercy”. I am to let my brain talk with God. And more importantly, I am to try to get my brain to stop talking long enough to listen to God.
Because, here it comes – Jehovah is first and foremost a superior Gardener. Ever since, Eve and her sidekick Adam tried their hands at Roundup Deluxe Weed Killer, any time we think we can do it better, we end up planting weeds and harvesting evil, while ripping up apple plants. We thought we could know good from evil, but only God knows His creation so thoroughly that He can harvest where no one has planted, and discern where weeds are growing without harming the fruit. If God has promised, that someday He will truly recreate the paradisiac garden He intended in the first place, on earth, then surely He knows how to tenderly pull up the weeds of sins in my own life, without harming the fruit of the Spirit.
So each day, I go out to transform my garden and transform my mind by minute minutes of weeding. It is not ever going to be an overhaul. It won’t ever be over, or complete, or finished. Only Jesus was able to say “it is finished” in this lifetime. And He said it today, Good Friday, when He died for the weedy souls called you and me. He didn’t come in with a giant tiller or a poisonous herbicide, but with a palm-sized nail. Jesus took two nails, and He began digging out the thorns, and brambles, and weeds of our lives, tenderly, lovingly, so as not to annihilate the seeds planted just below the surface of our soul soil. When we accept His living and dying for us and His glorious resurrection and restoration to His throne as we celebrate this weekend, we accept that we are all a growing garden, full of both weeds and fruit, but because of Christ, God looks at our hearts and sees Eden Restored in His Son’s image in us.
Take time this weekend, to contemplate the weeds of your life, and the fruit. Think on good things and pull a few weeds if you are able – some of them might be really hard to uproot if you have let them grow too long and too big in your life. But prayer helps. Humility helps. And most of all, know that Jesus spent His last night on earth, in a garden with our forefathers and foremothers, his disciples. He spent it in prayer. For us. He prayed for our weeds and our fruit and He knew that with Peter, and John and Mary, He couldn’t risk using his power to rip up their weeds, without endangering the embryonic blossoms of their faith and hope and love. So at 2:00 am I will come to the garden and know that the weeds and the flowers are in His care and ever more tended by His nail scarred hands.
Today Jesus died for the garden of this earth. He died for the garden of my soul. Silly, little insignificant, worthless, irritable, evil potato farmer me. There is an old song that Andre Crouch used to sing that begins, “How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me.” Usually I don’t want to make things all about me, especially the salvation of the world. But today, I simply look at the little garden patch of my life, and say to the Lord, “how can I say thanks?”
God, You sent your only Son back down into the Garden, to go out there and help us get rid of the weeds once and for all. Jesus, just like the little red hen, longs to “gather his chicks” and feed them from His crucified body and water them with his drought- resistant blood. All He asks of me, is to let Him into my garden patch. How can I say thanks?