Over the summer I’ve been liberating parts of my garden that had lost serious ground to overgrowth and various invaders. The takeover was gradual; the result of keeping gardens on two properties with only one me. With the second property gone, I decided it was time for some serious pulling, pruning, purging and replanting. After a lot of effort it’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better. Gradually, the things I want to nurture got the light and air and nourishment they need to flourish, and it shows.
Then one morning as I was communing with God, He impressed on me to “Be as careful to pull out the weeds in your spirit as you are with your gardens.”
I reflected that whether through neglect or time pressures, my spiritual garden suffers when I tackle too much. Good things are still there, but the things I don’t want can take root a lot more easily when I’m just giving the garden a lick and a promise. Instead of just plowing ahead and adding, adding, adding, it’s a lot healthier to let God mark out my boundaries and for me to stay within them. That makes it a lot easier to protect my borders from invasive plants that are notoriously hard to weed out.
I realized that as I kept expanding my two gardens, my thoughts were focused on how lovely the extra shrubs and flowers would be, how delicious the fruit would taste. It never seemed to occur to me that weeds would grow a lot faster and more plentifully than my crops; that they would be the time-eaters. If I didn’t pay attention, the ugly would gradually choke the fruitful and beautiful.
God, I think, was reminding me not to be lopsided in my spirit. While I’m rejoicing in His presence, I also need to ask Him to show me where the weeds are, and then ask Him to help me remove them. He wants me to realize this is work I need to do on a continuous basis. Some will pull up easily; others are deeply rooted and will be persistent. I need God’s help to know what I need to work on most urgently, and how to go about that.
The vigilance is necessary because Satan is in the weed-sowing business, and he has no shortage of either seeds or receptive ground. Here’s a brief guide to some of his leading varieties and how to combat them:
- A sense of unworthiness. This is a tough, sinewy ground-cover that can smother any crop. It creeps into the mind with thoughts like, “God can’t love me because I’m (a) bad, (b) weak, (c) stupid, (d) useless, (e) such a failure.” These tentacles may have been planted by another person at some previous point, but Satan is the one who feeds and waters them. This pernicious weed can be pulled out by a concentrated application of Romans 8. Be especially lavish with v. 37: nothing in all creation can separate us from God’s love in Jesus our Lord.
- Feelings of Anger and Bitterness. These weeds thrive in acidic soil. Focusing on frustrations and perceived injuries, they assign blame to others. They insist that “You could have been something/done something/got somewhere if it hadn’t been for _______. ” “Life/God isn’t fair.” “You should get even with _____.” “You have a right to stay angry.” “Don’t ever forget what _____ said/didn’t say/did/didn’t do.” To kill these weeds, apply Eph. 4:26-7: “In your anger do not sin.” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
- Pride. This is a weed that grows inordinately tall and casts a long shadow. It blocks out the light needed for Son-loving plants to flourish. If Satan can’t convince us we’re unworthy, he urges us to feel superior. Whether the pride is in accomplishments, status or possessions, it derails repentance, deflects change and dwarfs growth. Why improve when you’re fine the way you are? Pride says, ” You don’t need to depend on God — leave that for the losers.” “I’m not proud; I’m just self-assured; my self is assured that I’m better than most people.” Satan is hyper-aware of the pitfall of pride, having been snared by it himself. He likes nothing better than to see us walk into the same trap. spray the weed of pride with 2 Cor,. 10:17-18: ““Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord, for it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”
- Busyness. One of today’s most successful invaders, this starts with one or two small plants that look innocuous. Then it keeps dividing until there’s no room for anything else. No matter how hard we pull, we can’t make any headway; there are just as many today as there were yesterday. We get so preoccupied with weed control that we have no time, energy or space to spend on spiritual necessities. We keep vowing to start tomorrow, but those tomorrows seldom arrive. This is Satan’s weed of choice for young families. Try repeated doses of Luke 10: 41-42: “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed — or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
- Self Love. The oldest, most persistent weed known to man, it has an attractive appearance and grows well in every kind of soil and climate conditions. It comes in several popular varieties, including envy, greed, deceit and lust (a perennial favorite). This weed is highly resistant to efforts to control it; it thrives by taking over as the focal point of the garden and overruns everything it contacts. It can only be counteracted by heavy daily (in extreme cases, hourly) doses of Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. .. . Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Father, help me to nurture the seeds You plant in the garden of my heart, and destroy the weeds Satan sows in his effort to crowd You out. Grant me, I pray, a lifetime supply of DDT — Devil Disrupting Tenacity. In Jesus’ name, I ask it. Amen.