Gary and I were working in our garden, tending the vegetables and yanking out the unwanted weeds earlier this spring when I looked over and noticed another area that needed tending. We have several tall Crepe Myrtles that are on the street side of the garden. It was early spring, and I saw that all of them were crowded with weeds. The weeds had become so thick that I knew if there was any hope of the Crepe Myrtles growing then I would need to pull those weeds…..sooner rather than later.
After we finished the garden, I grabbed my little shears and I walked over to the row of Crepe Myrtles. It seemed that there were only weeds growing until I bent over to take a closer look. That’s when I saw that there were small new shoots of Crepe Myrtle poking through the thick weeds, trying hard to thrive but having to fight the persistent, fast growing weeds that threatened to crowd out their future growth.
I began to do some snipping here and some cutting there, but I soon realized that I would need to slow down and take my work to a more personal level. I got on my knees and slowly, carefully pulled more weeds from among the tender shoots of the bush that was trying so hard to grow. I didn’t want to pull the small green and maroon Crepe Myrtle growth from the ground, so I had to carefully identify each weed and then gently pull it from the ground by its roots. This was slow going, but it was worth it when I finally stood and looked down to see only pretty new Crepe Myrtle growth, unhindered now by the noxious weeds.
Over the next few weeks I was very pleased to see the Crepe Myrtles getting taller and taller, thriving in the rain and the sun. They could grow now and show their beauty. And just yesterday, as I pulled weeds from around our vegetables in the garden, I looked over to our little row of Crepe Myrtles and was so happy to see how tall they were. How healthy they looked! They will bloom now any day, a little late this year, but we will enjoy their blooms regardless. I think I’ll enjoy those pretty fuchsia flowers even more this year as I think of how carefully I had to remove what was threatening to kill their beauty.
This has been a rather difficult summer for me…..for our family. My mother passed away on May 4 and we buried her the Friday before Mother’s Day. Then in June Aaron was in the hospital for a week with pneumonia and other complications, and had a long recovery when he came home. I got sick a week after he got home, and am still finishing up my third round of antibiotics for that infection. Last week Andrea, in Houston, got pneumonia in both her lungs.
Those have been big things, like the big weeds in the Crepe Myrtles. Sometimes the big things that bring exhaustion and discouragement are easier to deal with because they are so evident. We expect to be tired and downhearted from issues like death and severe sickness, or prolonged illness. We can identify the big problem and hopefully understand it as we deal with it, or as we ask others to pray for us over those matters. It’s out there for all to see, including us, and so we can talk about it and handle it.
But deep in my heart, I’ve had another problem. It’s not out there for all to see, and is even difficult for me to adequately identify and then deal with as I should. I call it a spirit of discontentment. It’s a gnawing unhappiness that I find creeping up in my soul, threatening to choke out my joy and my growth. People can say, “Oh Patty, you’ve had such a hard time the last few months. It’s just so much to handle.” And while some of that may be true, I know better.
I know better because I know my tendency to become discontent. I’m like the Psalmist who said, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:5) I know myself very well, but I don’t always want to admit the problem. That’s when I need to get up close and personal, like I did when I was on my knees beside the Crepe Myrtles, pulling out each individual choking weed that was stunting needed growth. Sometimes it’s painful to identify the issue and to then take care of it in the necessary way, but it’s the only avenue to becoming content and peaceful once more.
My discontentment begins when I take my eyes off of God and His sovereignty in my life. It’s when I allow myself the “luxury” of a wandering thought life. What if I had this? What if life was like that? Why don’t I do such and such? Why am I a failure? If only I did this or had that or accomplished something, then I would be happy. And as a woman, especially, that ugly comparing game. How often we do that, whether it’s about our house or our figure or our work or our children or our husbands…..
It’s all so defeating. And the bottom line with me, the very damaging weed that I need to get rid of the most, is an attitude of unthankfulness. Paul tells us to be thankful in everything. That means EVERY THING! Every situation, every day, every person in our life, every moment, can and should prompt us to be thankful. Even when we don’t feel like being thankful, there is always a reason for which to give thanks. We may have to look hard, but it’s a command to be thankful. Even if I can’t find a reason, I am still to be thankful to God for what He has allowed. For me, a thankful heart is like pulling out many weeds that are choking me. A thankful word on my lips and a thankful thought in my brain often takes a very conscious effort, but it does so much to sweep away that discontentment that makes me so down and miserable.
After the Psalmist asked the question about his turmoil in Psalm 42:5, he finished by saying, “Hope in God! For I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” Sounds simple, but we know it isn’t always so. Down on my knees I will go again and again, I am sure, to weed out the attitudes that are causing my discontent. Remembering to hope in God and not in my surroundings. And then knowing that I SHALL again praise Him, even if it’s while I’m on my knees doing that weeding and I don’t really feel like praising. But praise I should, for He is my salvation and He is my God. What a gift! There it is. Something for which to be thankful!
I want to be growing into the beauty that God has for me, like my Crepe Myrtles are now growing. But I know it takes effort on my part to be obedient to what God tells me to do…..to be on my knees pulling out those weeds that are trying to destroy my joy.
Oh, there’s more to that verse. More to help me when I mess up. “My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mt. Mizar.”
In other words, when I am cast down again….and I will be…..then I can remember the God who has strengthened and enabled me in the past. He is still here in my present situation, whatever it may be.
Weeds always grow, but God is always faithful, too. And for that I am…..very thankful!