I sit in the garden about 7 am. Precious time alone, bought and paid for with a TV remote. May be a bit of God’s grace too.
It’s cool and I look up to see branches on tall and far-away trees, slowly and gracefully swaying as if to wave good morning. Small leaves on a closer crepe myrtle flitter in a barely-there breeze. The jasmine on the fence is in bloom. It stretches about a dozen yards to form a green wall separating my space from my neighbor’s. Its smell permeates the air, may be just slightly too strong a perfume.
A hummingbird comes to visit. I love it when they do! It’s flitting around one particular plant, laden with bright pink blooms. Although the garden’s been left untended, plenty of color flourishes here. This single plant – the calliandra, I think – probably has a hundred melon-colored blooms. I favor it because the flowers are so unusual. Not traditional ones with petals. More like something you’d find in the ocean: a sea anemone. But the short spikes that spray out from this flower are soft and delicate. Hair-like.
In my line of vision, I see a bed overtaken with weeds. Some short and spreading that make an ugly ground cover; another type, well-supported at the base, which sends up straight and tall spikes, almost two feet high. Behind the calliandra stand two rose bushes, bare-legged and sharing their space with a vine-like weed that’s wrapped its tendrils around the branches.
I’m impressed that beauty still insists on showing itself amidst a garden full of weeds. The color of the few blooms present here is still what first attracts my eye, and I admire it before moving on to less-satisfying sights. The weeds have not fully choked out these more majestic, if not stubborn, plants who refuse to have the spotlight stolen from them.
But how much more beauty would be, if only I’d take the time to do the hard work?
Smaller, less-adamant plants, whose roots aren’t as well-established, are truly prevented from displaying their glory. They’re disguised among uglier plants that have become emboldened by not having been uprooted; having not had their growth disrupted, prevented. These impostors are taking hold of soil that should’ve been freed from their persistence, ground that’s become their home; real estate which should’ve been purged of their presence.
It’s hard to ignore the MORE that could have been (by now), that still could be (not long from now) if only I’m willing to get my hands dirty.
I’m awed by the beauty that’s still here, in spite of my lack of sacrifice. Humbled even, ‘cause I can’t take a bit of credit. May be the original plantings were my doing, but none of the maintenance or upkeep. That’s been left to Nature and the sprinkler system…forces put on automatic timers that don’t require any effort on my part.
But the thought still nags my mind: There could be so much more…..
It’s much like this in the garden of our hearts: beauty and weeds both growing up together. It’s hard work to uproot the weeds. It takes constant vigilance. Some ugliness comes up with a small twist of two fingers; other weeds require back-breaking work. I know. I’ve done both the light and the hard work – in my real garden and in the garden of my heart.
When I look out the window of my brick-and-mortar home, to the garden beyond, I can feel overwhelmed by the weeds. (Actually that’s a regular occurrence). Likewise, when I look inward with spiritual eyes, to the heart inside my parts-and-organs home, I can feel overwhelmed by what still needs to be done. It’s easy to become discouraged. Thank God He doesn’t leave me there.
Instead, He reveals to me the beauty already inside of me – that which He originally put there and that which has been added to it through sacrifice of my own, and under His loving-care. He shows me plants sprouting up in pure defiance of the ugliness; flowers in bloom challenging the impostors to a show-down. Their beauty talks smack and says, “You’re going down.”
He also tenderly points me to areas that still need tending. It’d hurt worse if I didn’t feel okay with it, if I hadn’t given him permission. But I have, and I do – most days anyway. It’s because of His approach, because of His tenderness toward me, that I bow down, instead of buck up.
What it comes down to is this: the beauty that I feel now; the beautiful that presently exists in me was worth the effort, worth the sacrifice. What still cannot be labeled “beautiful” represents the hope of glory, Christ in me. It’s this hope that keeps me going. It’s this hope that helps me stand up from that garden bench, takes me down to my knees, where He’s able to say: “Let’s get our hands dirty”.
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