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The Root of the Weed

Today I have knots in my shoulders and back. My arms hurt. My neck hurts. Also, I have a tan.
I believe gardeners are innately more spiritual people. So much of ourselves can be explained and understood while wrist-deep in mulch and bugs and shrubs. Something about connecting with the earth, the life within it, the bare essence of our existence – it draws us deeper into the spiritual realm.
Which could, unfortunately, explain a lot about me. I hate gardening. I have no affection toward anything green or flowering. As is the case with most of my shortcomings, I blame my parents. When I was a child, they made me pull weeds as punishment. So I suppose my distaste for nature is similar to my distaste for Jell-o. I only ate Jell-o when I was sick. I threw up Jell-o. Therefore I do not care for Jell-o.
Or gardening. I’m more of an inside girl. As a child, I played with dolls and blocks. As an adult, I play Words With Friends and read books and work on my computer. But because grown-ups do things even when they don’t want to, I spent the entire weekend tending to a single flower bed overgrown with three-foot-high weeds. I sucked it up and put on my big-girl gloves, grabbed a hand rake, and (ahem) dug in. Even though I loathe gardening, I also loathe big mottled messes – which is what I saw every time I looked out of our breakfast room window.
Something had to be done. And it had to be me.
So I plugged in my headphones, cranked up some happy music, and got to work. Since I had proven to myself and everyone else that my thumbs are brown instead of green – I even kill mint, for crying out loud – I was hoping my superpowers could finally be put to good use.
Pulling weeds is long, slow, tedious work. I remember a lesson from my days of indentured servitude in my parents’ home: when pulling weeds, you have to dig down and get the root. You can’t just yank off the top. Even though the beds will look clean, the weeds will pop right back up if you don’t remove the root.
Which is all fine and dandelion until you start trying to pull the root. After tilling up the dirt around the base of the weed, I’d stick my dirty hand in the hole and dig my fingers down as far as I could. The root goes deep – much deeper than I can dig – and its lacy fingers weave themselves throughout the soil like camouflaged netting. Pulling weeds became a dichotomy of success and frustration. While I reveled in the progress I made, I would curse the remaining, unreachable remnants. With every rip of release, I knew more root still lay under the surface, festering and preparing to taunt me with a new generation of unwanted growth. Soon (in a week? a month? two months?) I will return with my hand rake, pulling up another batch of weeds, futilely digging down to remove the source.
Sitting in the dirt, digging out the roots, tossing aside the weeds, this verse from Hebrews prodded me:
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
Or, as The Message puts it:
Work at getting along with each other and with God…Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.
Blasted bitter root.
There are a handful of people and circumstances that make me MAD. As in, spitting fire-can’t sleep-don’t get me started kind of mad. Every time I think of them, my blood pressure goes up. Years of misunderstanding and hurtful words and resentment, too many unmet expectations, too many broken promises – all have grown deep into my soil and left me bitter. More than bitter. Seriously pissed off.
(Don’t worry. I’m not talking about you.)
When I get really ticked, I look at myself, and the nasty weed startles me. I chop it off. There. Done. All gone.
But I don’t excavate the root.
So, of course, the bitterness festers and pop! There it is again. AGAIN. And this weed is a thorny, ugly mess.
Digging through the soil in my flower bed – which, by the way, took all weekend – forced me to face this root of bitterness and ask (no, beg) God to take it out. Uncover the source, the motivation, the insecurity that feeds this resentment, this anger. It’s not going to be pleasant. Weeding takes muscle, sweat, effort. I got really dirty. I stank. Bugs bit me. 
But digging through the dirt felt good. Getting rid of the mess satisfied me, left me with a bone-weary gratification. While plowing up the weeds, I observed all kinds of creepy crawlies – worms chewing tunnels, aerating the soil. Ants carrying food. Spiders scurrying up the tree trunk. Caterpillars and centipedes and grubs and nameless leggy things who are all working to sustain life in the earth. They’re not always attractive. But each has a job. Each has a place in the soil. Each has a purpose.
My soil is a mess. Too many roots, too many weeds, lots of creepy crawlies doing their thang. Lots of work to be done. But my soil breathes life. It has a purpose. When cultivated and nurtured, it can be a place of beauty. When tilled and loosened, it stands ready to receive new growth, new seeds, new flowers. 
This gardening thing isn’t so bad after all. Maybe I’ll someday even enjoy it.
But I’m still passing on the Jell-O.

PS: This post by Don Miller kicked me out of the flower bed and onto my couch pillow. Really good stuff.

2 thoughts on “The Root of the Weed

  1. This is a beautiful piece, Jennifer. So honest and insightful.It's hard work, but it's worth it.When the soil has been amended for a few years, it gets easier to get the weeds out. This is true physically and metaphorically.I hope you continue to change your relationship with green things, and turn your insight into art as you've done. You never know what might sprout up!xxxooo

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