I am not a gardener. Not even close. In fact, I find the entire practice of gardening both mystifying and maddening. I grew tomatoes once, with my grandmother’s help. She happens to have the greenest thumb south of the Mason-Dixon line, though, so I’m pretty sure I did not grow those tomatoes. I tied some vines to some stakes and did a whole lot of post-planting inspection. That’s all. If the growing itself had been left to me, we’d have had a salsa-less summer. I just can’t grow things. Unfortunately, my yard reflects this.
The last few times I’ve pulled out of my driveway, I’ve looked at my flowerbeds and winced. I was too concerned with our busy schedule this summer to pay attention to my overgrown, weed-infested flowerbeds. Said overgrowth and weeds had remained in place and simply become petrified versions of themselves as we headed into the fall and, now, winter. So I thought: this weekend. I have to start thinking about spring planting this weekend. And I resolved to get out there on Saturday, yank those weeds out, rake some leaves, and lay the foundation for what I’m sure will be a wildly successful spring planting endeavor. Right? Right.
The wonder of yard work when you have a 3 year-old is that you have someone to keep you company – someone who is thrilled to be outside, soaking up the sun and generally enjoying Mommy’s lack of focus on whatever mischief is being made. So Olivia and I ventured outside on Saturday, armed with nothing but the best of intentions and one very serious set of gardening gloves. As Livi ran off to explore and play, I began my work in the flower beds.
As I reached for the first brown, crackled stems that had invaded my garden earlier this year, I was surprised to notice how much resistance I encountered. The strength of these roots was no match for the frailty of their above-ground extensions, and my first few attempts at ‘cleaning house’ yielded a few broken-off stems and little more. I guess I thought that since everything I could see was so weak and dead-looking, pulling the entire plant up would be no problem. Wrong. Those roots were still thriving.
It reminded me of the dead things in our lives, of the things that don’t belong, the invasive imitators that rise up to choke beauty. It reminded me of my reluctance to try to yank those things out of the soil because I know what their roots are, and I know how deeply they’re embedded. I know how much soil they’ll disturb on their way out, and I know how much strength it will take to grab hold and give ‘em a good pull. So, very often, I settle for some good old-fashioned cosmetic gardening - you know, cutting back those feeble old stems, the things that signal to the world that weeds are choking parts of my life - and figuring that I’ll deal with the bigger issue later.
Still, I called this to mind and found hope: that within the difficulties of the past year, some of the more invasive roots began to find themselves being pulled up and tossed into the burn pile. And that’s good. What’s hard is realizing that our work is never done, that as long as we’re here on this earth, we remain in need of constant pruning. But I also find comfort in that…comfort in knowing that this is common to all men, that if I can lay eyes on you, the good work is still in the process of being completed. And I find comfort in knowing that He who called us is faithful. And He’s far better at gardening than I am.
At one point during all of this, Livi presented herself and asked what I was doing. I explained to her that these were weeds, and they were in the way, and to get rid of them we had to pull them up by their roots, and that sometimes their roots were buried deep, so we had to be really strong to get them up. She seemed, at best, under-impressed and resumed her play elsewhere. I finished cleaning out the flower beds and set to work sweeping leaves out of my carport.
While she may not have been thrilled with the weed-pulling, Livi found the sweeping extra interesting, thanks to a couple of genius kiddie brooms gifted to her by my mom and Nana. So she decided she would help. She kicked a few leaves toward the edge of the carport, and then I heard her say, “Mama, look! I’m helping!” I looked up, and she was leaning into the tree just beside our house, with her head down and both hands on the trunk of the tree, pushing with all of her little might.
I chuckled a little at the irony…this very tree will have to be professionally removed within the next 3-5 years because of its proximity to the house and the threat of its roots disturbing my home’s foundation. A little bit wearily, I asked her what she was doing. She said, “I’m pushing this tree up, Mama.” As I began to explain to her that this is a giant tree, that it is huge and heavy, its roots are stronger and deeper than we could imagine, and that there’s no way her little body could move such a force, my soul heard: “…and you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move…” And I realized, she had not stopped to consider the process and the variables. She didn’t grimace at the possibility of discomfort. She knew only that she didn’t want that tree to be there, and if her mommy could move things like that around, then she could too. It was just that simple.
I want that kind of faith. I want that courage. I want to see what my Father has done in one area of my life and unswervingly trust that He can do the same in another. I want to tell that mountain to move.