You’ve seen the claims. You’ve heard the ads: lay down a barrier and end weeds forever. Too good to be true?
Every gardener’s nemesis is the weed: clover, dandelion, chickweed, purslane, ivy (Click here for pictures and a comprehensive list).
And putting down a barrier – whether fabric, plastic or newspaper will only delay the weed’s return. I've tried it all: pulling, covering, cutting, poisoning. These broadleaf guests check in any time they like, but like 'Hotel California', it seems they never leave.
One reason for the 'weed's' tenacity is root systems that go beyond a single pull – either deeper or broader than the top of the plant indicates. I’ve had whole colonies of weeds grow in the couple inches of mulch put on top of these layers.
Additionally, the ground below the fabric becomes a concentrated version of whatever it is. Unable to be tilled or absorb any top dressing, it becomes rock hard.
The best defense, then, is not an easy, one time solution. Just as when we want to be rid of unwanted behaviors in our life, it’s not as simple as pulling the top off, we have to go below the surface. In the garden the key is creating loose enough soil that your pulling efforts get out the whole plant, leaving no tendrils to grow a new plant a few weeks later. In our hearts, it means keeping it pliable enough, too.
Because the harder the surface, the tougher it is to remove weeds of all sorts.
Remarkably, God tells his people that when they return to him, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26
I think this sounds strange to us because 'heart of flesh' seems to describe the beating muscle we all know to be in our chest. The Hebrew word for “flesh” (bawsawr) doesn’t give us much insight, either, because it refers to the body we have. However, the root from which bawsawr comes is from the Hebrew “basar” meaning to be fresh, to announce, preach, show forth good tidings.
Stone – hard, unyielding, not fertile
Flesh – fresh, show forth good tidings, announce
Just like in soil, stones are impenetrable. They block out growth. They must be removed if you want to create a fertile field. When crushed, however, stones become sand. And sand is a perfect amendment to soil to keep the texture aerated and pliable.
The key to keeping your garden and your heart clear of weeds is to loosen the texture so that unwanted starters won’t have the opportunity to get their roots down deep or spread out. In the garden, we can buy a bag of sand and add it along with other organic matter (from the kitchen or yard waste), amendments like Clay Cutter and materials like mulch. But what do we do in our hearts to keep them soft?
Recently I met with some friends, Christian friends, and we discussed some hard things. Offenses had been made and not properly handled. In the hope of being graceful and forgiving, the matters were never settled fully. Little stones were creeping in.
It's hard to talk about these things and so much easier to push down and hope to cover over. It even seems to work for awhile. But I'm afraid it only delays the re-growth. Just like the weeds in our gardens, hardness and bitterness are the perfect medium for weeds to appear. They will pop up where we least want to see them - in our love.
Thankfully, we took the time to be honest, to dig deep and to recognize the ways we've hurt each other. We peeled back the layers that we had hoped would help, but were really just creating a barrier to real love and forgiveness.
I wish I could tell you that the work is done and that weeds won't grow anymore. But the truth is that we have to work daily to keep the soil of our hearts soft and fresh.
Starting today, I'm going to take a new perspective on weeding. When I go in the garden and coax those uninvited plants from the ground, I am going to pray that God will do the same in my heart. And if I have to stay out there for a very long time, I look forward to the transformation.