I’ve never been a gardener. But don’t say my mother never tried to cultivate a love of the dirt and growth and soil and plants. She tried her hardest. She lived in the garden and hoped her daughter would similarly follow suit. Yet, I’ve heard her repeat over to me, “You barely pulled one weed growing up.” Perhaps it was the hard work. Or the heat. Or my impatience.
But I didn’t pull many weeds nor did I plant much as a child. So the fact that I have a garden now is quite amusing to my mother. And to be honest, it’s pretty amusing to myself as well. Because I still am impatient. I still run away from hard work at times. And I still am not a fan of the heat. But gardening I am.
In the interest of full disclosure, my mother actually planted our first bed of plants the first year we started our garden. She created the raised beds. She weeded. She watered. She nurtured. Then she went back home to Ohio. Leaving us with our new garden and the work of nourishing the plants. To my surprise, I found myself weeding at night. After our daughter was in bed and the heat subsided I would go and weed. I would pull and pull some more.
With all the rain, there have been plenty of weeds. I hear my mother’s voice, “A weed isn’t bad in and of itself. A weed is just that which we don’t want.” The weeds in my garden are those plants that aren’t life giving to the rest of my garden. They are getting in the way of full growth for my strawberry and tomato and pepper plants. Many nights I keep pulling. It’s a never ending task. I remove the weeds to make way for more growth that is sustaining.
One night as I weeded, I thought to myself, “What are the weeds in my life that I need to remove?” What are those things that aren’t necessarily bad for me, but are keeping me from truly living?” Too often I have too much and I’m not able to remember that nothing belongs to me. Too often I fail to remember that everything is a gift from God. Too often I recite the Lord’s Prayer, “give us this day our daily bread,” and I forget that my neighbor, too, needs daily bread to survive. Too often I donate items that I don’t want and that are left over rather than giving from my abundance. I have plenty of weeds that are keeping me from really experiencing life.
When I pull these weeds each night and reflect on what I have, I get uncomfortable. “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Luke 12:48).
I pull and pull and pull some more. I have been given much. I have been entrusted much. In shedding my attachment to things and stuff, in removing myself from the busyness and the drive to compete and gain notoriety, I begin to see myself as God sees me — a loved Child of God. When we’ve been stripped down to not needing to be defined by what we’ve accumulated, then, only then, can we really see ourselves and our neighbors for who we are — children of God. Nothing more and nothing less.
Much of the time my thinking of how much stuff I have is just that – thinking. But it’s a start. Maybe it’s enough to keep pulling those weeds. Giving thanks for the One who sustains all of life. Maybe it’s enough to sit and rest in the garden. To be still and know that God is God. Someday soon, I pray, I will start pulling those weeds in my life that are keeping me from fully living and loving and serving. For I know that my life and the life of my neighbor depends on it.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/