I just finished pulling weeds…for an hour…okay…for 40 minutes…but I continued to sweat like I was still out there for another 20 minutes so let’s call it good.
I don’t pull weeds. Or garden. It’s not my thing. I don’t enjoy it. I like the sun I get from being out there, otherwise, I don’t have that “Oh this is so peaceful and relaxing” vibe so many of you experience. I’d rather get sun by being in the water, that’s more my speed.
It’s been a week since my aunt went back home and she went through the flowerbed while she was here, so it was time…ok, possibly a little past time, but, I got it done.
I don’t have the hand strength she does from gardening for years, so it’s hard for me to pull the weeds up by the root. I can get the visible sprouts, the ones that are on the surface where everyone can see. We laid the plastic and the 472 bags of mulch (kidding…a little) so why isn’t that enough? I thought about just buying some weed killer but I can’t really justify the expense right now (anyone else’s kids just back to school? $$$) and the sun did feel good.
This year has been a year of challenges, growth, anger, frustration…feeling lost, isolated, lonely, defeated…Things have not gone my way. I had different plans for this year. So, being the adult I am, I crossed my arms and pouted and stomped my feet…for months…which was sooo helpful.
I felt God tugging at my heart, and just like the weeds that were so firmly planted amidst my beautiful flowerbed, I resisted. The weeds in me grew stronger, the roots burying themselves deeper and deeper until they became too overwhelming for me to pull out of. I couldn’t see the beauty happening around me because I was so entangled in the weeds.
Weeds that don’t need sunlight…or rain…or nurturing to grow…that in fact grow stronger without any attention, simply by being present. Weeds…feelings…that threatened to…and for a while did…take over my entire life. Weeds of disappointment, fear, disbelief…strangling my prayers, replacing them with angry, one-sided conversations…not with God, but at Him.
Why me? Why again? Why now? Haven’t I been through enough? It’s my turn to be taken care of, I’m so tired…I don’t want to be the strong one again.
Weeds that eventually turned poisonous. For three months, I prayed a poisonous prayer…My husband is an alcoholic. He is in rehab. Again. Because he relapsed. Again. And I can’t go through this another time. I need this time to stick. And I didn’t just let the weeds grow stronger…I fed them…nurtured them…encouraged them. I prayed, “God, if this isn’t going to work…if we’re just going to have to go through this another time…don’t let him come home.”
I prayed these exact words. Over and over. About the man I promised to love, until death do us part, because I didn’t want the “for worse” part any more…I’d had enough of it…I wanted the richer and the health and the better…I deserved that part of our vows to finally be true.
And then, one Sunday morning in July, I sat in church and listened to our pastor speak these words and God was not just gently nudging me, He was almost pushing me out of my seat…My pastor’s words… “When I pray for you, my heart is softened toward you and it’s easier to forgive.” (Pastor Rod Loy, senior pastor, First Assembly North Little Rock, Arkansas)
What I heard… “Your prayers are hardening your heart towards your husband, not softening.”
He was talking about forgiveness…trust…relationships…
My heart was breaking. Not because of what had been done to me. Not because of how I deserved to feel. Not because life wasn’t fair.
Finally, as God had intended, my heart was breaking for my husband. God was breaking my heart, softening it, slowly pulling each weed. Gently, almost without force…so as not to break at the surface, but to pull it completely from the root, out of my heart.
I slowly started pulling my own weeds. First was the anger and unforgiveness. (My pastor said it’s a word, so it is.) In order to soften my heart and pray for my husband, I couldn’t allow those weeds to live in me. It wasn’t easy. Or immediate. I didn’t wake up one morning and not have those feelings any more. It took time. And prayer. And tears.
As I pulled more weeds, I began to see the beauty that had been hidden under the weeds. I noticed the first flower…True affection from my husband, something that has been a struggle for us our entire marriage. Then communication…more like a flowering bush…tall and strong and overflowing.
As the weeds were pulled though, I saw some plants that weren’t weeds begin to take over. They were good plants, but they were taking over, just like the sweet potato vines that aren’t meant for a flowerbed eventually take over the smaller, weaker flowers if they aren’t cut back and contained. I was ready to have my husband home. Now. Not later. Not in God’s time. I prayed for financial stability. I desperately pleaded for our girls to not feel all the feelings that come with this season of our lives. I became consumed and overtaken by my wants…not bad things to want or ask Him for…Just, my plan, not His.
But as I allowed those wants and prayers to consume my heart, I was slowly killing all of the beautiful flowers God intended to give me. I was stealing the sunshine and the rain and the nurturing from the small, delicate flowers God was placing in my life.
I was missing out on what God was planting in me. My wants were overshadowing His gifts, His grace, His peace…His plan.
I thought I was in a good place. And I was in a better place, but God had so much more He wanted to give me. I just had to pull back the flowers I was trying to plant so I could see how much more beautiful His flowers could be.
Sunday, during his message, my pastor said, “God says to us, I know times have been tough, I thought it might help if I put my arms around you.”
And. I let Him. And as His arms embrace me and hold me, the flowers I thought were the most beautiful are slowly giving way to flowers more beautiful than I could have ever planted on my own.
Flowers of peace. Love. Grace. Forgiveness. Mercy. Renewal.
I know the weeds will come back…Pulling them once or even a hundred times doesn’t guarantee they’ll never surface again. The flowers that tend to take over when not contained will still need to be cut back to let God’s flowers thrive. Just like a flowerbed, living in God’s will is something I will have to work at every day.
Pulling weeds. Cutting back flowers. Watering.
All of it is work.
There will be dry seasons and rainy seasons and seasons full of just the right mixture of rain and sun and wind.
And in every season, God will be there, putting His arms around me, reminding me to seek His flowers…His plan…His will…so that I can experience the beauty only He can give.