When I saw the weather forecast last night and realized that today would likely be the first full day without rain in weeks, I imagined a multitude of options for Friday’s choice in My 30-day Challenge. Then I woke up this morning.
Body rife with pain and fatigue (thanks to fibromyalgia and the continually changing, damp weather), it took a hefty dose of motivation just to drag myself out of bed and make some coffee. I fed the animals, grabbed some breakfast and headed back to bed to read today’s chapter in Proverbs and put a heating pad on my aching shoulders. I thought hard but couldn’t imagine what challenge I’d come up with for today, so I figured I’d postpone resolving that dilemma until later.
Resting in bed until noon (you see, I got that “resting” part down from yesterday!), I was able to get caught up on emails and other communications work. And since that gloriously warm globe was still gracing the sky with its presence, I decided I’d better get up and do some laundry while it was dry and breezy. As almost all other Southern Europeans, we hang our laundry out to dry and it’s actually a ritual I really enjoy.
With the first load drying in the sunshine and a second already in the washer, I contemplated once again my challenge for the day. I was feeling so exhausted – what could I possibly do? And then one of the phrases I’d written in my first post announcing my plans for these thirty day came back to me: Although each challenge may not appear to be anything earth-shattering, I believe that every day will bring me a new lesson, a fresh opportunity for growth and new perspective from my Father. So why was I insisting on making this so difficult?
I distractedly noticed all the weeds that were beginning to peek through the cracks in our cement courtyard following the rains. (We rent a nearly century-old Portuguese farmhouse and though it’s been renovated, you can almost hear it’s weary foundations groaning under the weight of all that it has witnessed).
Without a second thought, I grabbed my garden knife and got to work digging them up. Some were almost pretty, with delicate little green leaves trimmed in red. Or soft vines featuring odd-shaped foliage and small lavender-colored flowers. These came up easily, with barely a tug, as their roots ran just below the surface, between the cracks.
But then there were the “boogery weeds”… those nasty guys with an ugly appearance and an uglier tendency to burrow deep down in the soil. When I encountered the first one, I attempted to dig it out from the cement, but quickly remembered how weary I was and resigned myself to merely cutting off the part that was visible above ground.
Have you ever done that? Maybe when the ground was hard and dry and you wanted your garden to look nice, but didn’t feel like doing all the work of digging up those pesky roots? Whenever I encounter these situations while gardening, my mind always goes to the spiritual principles that these earthly ones represent.
How often do we see something in our life that we want to change or sin that needs to be eradicated, yet we opt for merely trimming off those “surface leaves” rather than allowing God’s Spirit to dig deep and reveal where its roots lie? We put on a cheerful face, and act like all is well while dark tendrils wind their way around our hearts. I have done this. I’ve made my garden appear lovely merely for the sake of appearance – to look like I have it all together.
As I meditated on this, I decided this weed needed to go – completely! So I began to dig with my knife. It’s strong roots had managed not only to crack the cement, but to break it to pieces. I pulled away each loosened chunk, digging further into the dirt below. This little guy’s root was MASSIVE and no matter how much I dug, I couldn’t seem to find the end of it. It seemed to have wrapped itself around the very foundation of the courtyard, compromising its stability and strength.
I dug deeper still and began to find some really strange things below the surface: a smashed ping pong ball, a piece of shiny plastic, a bit of the handle from a ceramic mug. (I kid you not… this happens all the time when we dig in our yard here in Portugal. We once found 3 intact plates!). At long last, gently tugging on the root as I bore deeper with the knife, the root snapped and some of it was left behind.
I considered how easily this can happen in my life. I may allow anger or bitterness to creep in unchecked. The rains come, I neglect things a bit more, and before I know it, they’ve dug their roots deep into the very foundation of my being. Things start to crumble. And it becomes so challenging to get to the bottom of those roots and pull them out. I may even discover that there’s much more there below the surface than I’d imagined. (Squashed ping pong balls, no less!).
But thankfully, our God is an amazingly merciful Father, a tender gardener. He awaits our bidding to allow His Spirit to begin digging below the surface. He delights in shining His awesome light of love and forgiveness into the neglected spaces in our hearts. He restores our foundations and exchanges our hideous weeds for blossoms of incomparable beauty.
My challenge today was to do more than just make it through the day. To take a small step beyond my pain and fatigue and “I don’t feel like doing anything” and dig a bit further into all that my precious God longs to teach me, through the simplest of tasks.
When my heart is open to receive, my ears willing to hear, there is so very much to learn. So I invite His gentle hand to come and weed my garden… and I will flower all the more with the light of each new day!
Look after each other
so that none of you fails to receive
the grace of God.
that no poisonous root of bitterness
grows up to trouble you,