“Sweet flowers are slow, and weeds make haste.”
Eight months ago, I put my name in a little wooden box, hoping for a plot in the community garden.
Last week, I got the call, and happily wrote my $15.00 cheque, dreams of ripe tomatoes, abundant lettuce and luscious table flowers blooming in my head.
This morning, I finally walked down to see my new plot, #37. I was expecting a few weeds, some upturned soil, remnant potatoes. But what I found was a wild jungle, a plot that stands out among its neighbours with their tidy rows, its weeds reaching dangerously into their manicured confines.
Plot #37, instead of being a breezy project where I could throw down some quick tomatoes and careless lettuce, is a demonstration forest of local weedery, a lush green bed of hostile takeover, a huge project. There’s even a tree. Yes, a gnarled and surly shrub (?) tree that sits in the far right corner of the triangular alotment.
No wonder the previous gardener pulled up their stakes – Plot #37 has an air of defiance about it that scares me. But its day of judgement is coming soon.
I have to confess, I haven’t done much weeding lately. My house is another jungle of dust, papers and laundry, with a fridge that is fast becoming a greenhouse. I am sitting here, writing, with a big list of chores at my elbow, avoiding them.
Bear with me now – before the tangled logic overtakes you – this post does have a point.
I need to do some serious weeding.
I’ve been struggling with dissapointment over the way life has grown up around me in the past few months, hiding from friends and fellowship because I have been choked by the unexpected. Instead of polishing off my skills in journalism amidst professors, internships and academia, I’m working as a cashier. Instead of making a name for myself and making a difference in the world, I’m making breakfast, lunch and dinner. Instead of living the single, free life and spending money on clothes and coffees, I’m shouldering the financial burden of a household while my sweet husband braves the frigid waters of the job market.
So what have I done? I haven’t been to the garden of my soul for awhile. I’ve merely been surviving.
Weeds, when you ignore them, choke out the truth about life as it stands, and prevent new growth.
But it’s not all bad news. I’m not going to stay inside while the garden grows wild. God has been walking in my garden, albeit softly, and planting some new seeds of truth.
Weed #1 – If only things were different, I’d be happy and fulfilled.
I don’t know who planted this seed, perhaps the early successes I had in high school, or the heady days of straight A’s at university, but I certainly nourished the thought. As soon as things started going ‘awry’ (no school, debt, full-time job that drains one’s creativity), I fed this particular weed with dissapointment, and it grew. I definitely didn’t sign up for this kind of life, but no one else does, either. We all live in dissapointment at times, and to be honest, living the life you dream of often ends up being empty. I remember very clearly when I was in highschool – valedictorian, straight A’s, lots of popularity, university prospects, successful basketball team, a cute date to the grad dance – I still had days where I walked home, feeling sad and lonely.
I’m happily married, living a fairytale with the man of my dreams, but we are still human beings with embarrassingly human behaviour. Fantasy can only take you so far, and most often, when the daily threatens to squash the dreamy, it’s the renewed love and affection, the shared laughter when life is a gong show, the continued relationship with my husband, not the wedding pictures, that keep me going.
Weed #2 – Good things are just around the corner/someday, I’ll arrive.
I know this one is insidious, like horsetail and dandelions. The roots go deep. I’m not talking about hope – we need hope to live – but instead, that notion that one day, we’ll turn the corner and step fully into who we really are. I’ve turned many corners in my day – and wherever you go, there you are. Being in Africa, on the other side of the globe, didn’t get me away from myself, and whatever grand event that I’m waiting for is still going to have me in it – the same me that has been learning, growing and screwing up for the past 27 years. Focusing instead on learning and serving where I am, being faithful with the present tasks I have, however menial, will bring more change than simply waiting for the corner.
Weed #3 – I don’t know who I am anymore/If only I could go back to the things I used to do
School, as my best friend says, is the only time you’ll ever be graded on what you do. This is true – and when you lose that atmosphere, the world can yawn wide with uncertainty and no clear direction – who you are, what people think of you, how well you are doing at life and work. I thought that I lost myself when I stopped school, started a job outside my field of expertise, and got married.
The other day, I was finally free! No work considerations, no dishes, just me and my car, driving across town for tea with friends and whatever else I wanted to do. So I went to all my old watering holes and the places I loved to shop. I set up meetings with the friends I used to casually hang out and have coffee with.
And with a car to myself, headed in any direction I wanted, I headed home. It was the only place I wanted to be. And I felt more like myself than ever – not performing, not purchasing. In the midst of trying to get my ‘old’ life back after yearning for it, I ended up finding out that I didn’t really want it at all. The most enjoyable part of that day was spending time with a friend who just became a new mother and then coming home to my husband.
Weed #4 – I’m running out of time/I’ve missed my chance
The urgency that university invests in us (as well as well-meaning parents and friends and mentors) is to have goals and get on with things. I agree – it’s good to have focus. But feeling like you’ve somehow missed out on your life’s big chance at greatness because you take a year off school, or you didn’t take that job, or you couldn’t afford to…etc…is as weedy as it gets. You don’t have to know what you’re supposed to be doing for the rest of your life, you just have to know who you’re doing it all for.
(my laundry is threatening to rise up and revolt – time to wrap up part #1 and do some practical household gardening.)
All these weeds are being plucked out of my life as I write this. Painfully, slowly, and stubbornly. But I’m convinced that these holes in the ground will be filled with something better, something more disciplined and holy than I could ever have cultivated or planned for on my own.
I’m just grateful that God’s a much more attentive gardener than I am. All I have to do is respond.