I have a black thumb.
It seems like any plant I try to grow, dies. And it’s never a speedy expiration. No, sadly it involves long suffering and then a painful and gruesome demise. I truly have all the best intentions when I waltz through Lowe’s garden center looking for new adoptions to my home or yard. But I do believe my reputation has proceeded me and anything green and healthy cringes away from my funereal thumbs in terror.
I have friends who grow all manner of vegetables and fruits in their yards. One of my neighbors is from Guyana and in the spring his backyard is an envious display of green, orange, red, yellow, and purple. I couldn’t even grow a shoebox of herbs on my backporch.
There is one thing, though, that seems to thrive under my care—weeds. They sprout from between the cracks on my backporch, they line the walkway leading to my front door, they swarm across the sidewalk in front of my house if I look away for more than a few hours. They’re more prolific than mice, more resilient than roaches, and more calculating than cats. I’m so good at cultivating them that I actually converted my St. Augustine lawn into a weed-breeding brothel without lifting a finger.
I have another neighbor with a corner lot who practically lived in his yard for a whole year fighting off the seditious invasion of his magnificent lawn. And while I don’t have the patience for that, they’re dozens of lawn services that would gladly accept my hard-earned cash to do it for me. Sure, I could spend a fortune each year calling in Scotts to spray my lawn with a few hundred pounds of cancer-causing pesticides each month, but then I’d have to pay for chemotherapy in ten years and where’s the fun in that? So, I let the weeds multiply and divide. Besides, in Florida almost everything looks like a weed when if first sprouts anyway, and I would feel terribly guilty if I accidently ripped up a future bristlecone or sequoia.
In pondering the whole weed thing and going through some very challenging personal struggles of late, I realized the corellation between my green yard varmints and the creeping vines that thread their way through my life. Once you realize they’ve taken over your turf, you know you’re in for a fight. I’m talking the Rocky I type of fight where the battle is so fierce, we become unrecognizable even to ourselves.
For example, I used to dread Saturdays as a child. I have a former Marine for a mother and she was determined to keep the weeds off our front yard fence. So every Saturday morning after she dragged me away from Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo, I would spend a good hour in the hot South Florida sun ripping out weeds. The first few times, I made the mistake of forgetting to put on garden gloves before shredding my fingers on the chainlink fence and receiving multiple angry bites of protest from the fire ants that populated our yard. And if I missed a Saturday, it was like those yard squatters had invited every foreign seed in the neighborhood to take root along my fence line.
And whether you travel to the Gobi desert, the Amazon rainforest, or the Artic tundra, weeds are there and like wedding crashers, invite their siblings, aunts, and cousins twice removed to join in the party. And they don’t usually need much soil. Such are the weeds in our life. They latch on to us like briars and drop unnoticed into our home and family. The thing is, if you catch them early, little harm is done. But when they are allowed to take root and spread in darkened corners, it’s hard to find where we end and our weeds begin.
When weeds grow in a garden though, you can’t treat them like foreign invaders, hacking at them with a trowel. You’ve got to finesse them from the earth so as not to dislodge the plants you intended to be there in the first place. Regardless though, when you pull out a weed, you displace the soil, unsettling the firm ground.
That’s what happens when we try to rip the weeds from our lives. Everything becomes unsettled. The ground that we clung to so desperately for footing is now loose and shaky beneath our feet. Our very roots are challenged.
So why not just leave them? Why do we wage the weed war with our lawns? Why do we wage the sin war in our lives? Because we know the damage they do. It’s like the “Dog Strangling” vine that hit New York, New England, and Ontario a few years back. Native to Europe, the plant hitched a ride across the Atlantic and, without any natural enemies in the New World, has been cutting a swath of destruction on the native flora of Northeastern America literally strangling the life out of whole forests.
Then there’s the Fireweed of Florida that comes and goes in my backyard like a vicious vagrant, stinging unwary and barefoot children who spend the next two hours in mommy’s arms sobbing in pain. These are especially diabolical because they are indistinguishable from other harmless grasses. I’ve had weeds like that in my life as well only I’m the one who spends the next two days sobbing in my closet.
There’s a whole host of green life-sucking fiends—Wild Parsnip burns the skin, Giant Hogweed can cause blindness, and seeds from the Dodder (a parasitic weed) actually track the chemical aroma of their desired plant and smother its host, injecting syringe-like needles into stems and leaves to suck out water and nutrients. Sounds like sin to me.
And we haven’t even talked about aphids, fungus, worms, caterpillars, and a whole host of other critters out to destroy our gardens not unlike the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19. In a world so littered with parasites cultivated by the media, it’s everything we can do to keep the intruders at bay. We have to constantly be on our guard, daily weeding out our hearts, allowing no alien defiler to use us a living hosts from which to feed.
And like my corner lot neighbor who waged his year-long war learned, weeds are relentless. Sin is, too. It never takes a break or goes on vacation.
How I wish I could just call in someone like Scotts to kill the rebounding barnacles in my personal life. But with my history, my weeds would mistake the pesticides for fertilizer and then I would be writing my blogs on the fabric walls of a padded cell. I think I’ll save some money and get out my garden gloves.