17 May Sin: Not a Popular Topic
This past weekend I spent two days in the dirt. On Friday I planted flower pots, pruned bushes, mowed the grass, put down mulch, and declared the deck “open for business” after hanging baskets and pots were moved into place. On Saturday I worked on the church grounds tackling a nasty ivy that was under the mistaken impression that it owned the joint. Several folks armed with an array of power and hand tools made it their business to clear the fence of this intrusive vine. That ivy was going down.
Gardening is good for my soul. I am not a trained or particularly knowledgeable gardener. I often don’t know the names of specific plants or flowers, but I’m gradually learning. I do know enough to keep the tag that tells me how much sun or shade a plant needs and how often it should be watered, so thankfully, I am at least reasonably adept at keeping my flowers alive.
There are two things I find immensely satisfying about gardening. One is the beauty that results. The vibrant colors, the different textures, shapes and sizes, the nearly endless variety of what grows in the earth provides an ever-changing kaleidoscope of splendor that is a feast for the senses. I find joy and peace sitting silently and simply surrounded by beautiful geraniums and hostas, roses and caladium.
Second, I love the feeling of bringing order from chaos. From an unkempt, tangled mess of moss and clover, dead leaves, and plants gone wild emerged thoughtful, pretty, neat pots and borders. From a fence that had become invisible behind years of entwined vines emerged light and a sightline to the school next door. At home and at church, the wilderness has been at least temporarily tamed, and that makes me smile.
I also had one unexpected, memorable moment last weekend that spoke volumes to me. I was alone at the time, trowel in my gloved hand, dirt everywhere. I had loosened one particular ivy tendril with the trowel, then reached down to pull it up. At that point, what was in my hand, the above-ground part of the vine, was just a couple of inches long, just enough to grab hold of. I started pulling….and pulling, and what came up was a root that was well over a foot long. “This is exactly what sin is like,” I thought. What a great object lesson.
I know sin is not a popular topic, but it’s still a constant, daily reality that we all deal with. Anger, self-centeredness, pride, envy, or fear; being dismissive, critical or suspicious of others; impatience, self-loathing or worry; being judgmental or a gossip—name your vices, we all have them. And our sins behave a lot like that ivy. There’s the part that shows, and that can be plenty noxious and invasive, threatening to choke the life out of everything around it. But the root, that’s even worse. It is longer, grows deeper, and is more embedded than what we see, making it by far the hardest part of any eradication job. We can sometimes manage to cut back the sin we expose to the world. Like trimming the ivy, we can lop off a little here, a little there, then “pretty it up,” cover it with mulch, and walk away thinking it’s gone. But if we don’t deal with the root, sooner or later it will come roaring back to life, just as noxious and invasive as ever.
Gardens take constant vigilance to ensure that they receive the proper amounts of water, sun, and nutrients as well as to rid them of pests, weeds and disease. The same is true of our hearts, where the root of sin resides. By being attentive, we can water and feed our souls with that which strengthens and nourishes us, and we can repent of sin as it appears, before it becomes entrenched as habit.
We will never get rid of all the ivy along our fence, and we will never be able to root out all sin from our lives either. But by being faithful and persistent gardeners, we can experience the joy and peace of a beautiful heart where the love and grace of God grows freely.
Yours for the Kingdom,