By Joy Willis
My grandmother had a green thumb. As a child, I remember her South Georgia porch being filled with a rainbow of fragrant flowers. As an adult, I have often wondered why I didn’t inherit her ability to grow plants. I have tried to keep plants alive but with little success, until this year.
My neighbor has a beautiful garden that I can see from our kitchen window. Every summer, it is filled with an array of flowers and vegetables. Every year, my children gaze longingly at it and ask why we can’t have a garden like that. So, I decided this was the year I would teach myself to have a green thumb.
I bought a tomato plant and planted some flowers in a garden, and I was determined to make it a priority of keeping these plants alive all summer long. I watered them every day—sometimes even twice a day. Initially, my tomato plant wasn’t doing so well, so I called my mom for advice and found out that tomato plants need plant food. (I never knew there was such a thing!) I enlisted help watering the plants when my family took a vacation. As it turns out, growing a garden takes more intentionality and effort than I originally thought.
The most consuming and aggravating part of tending to a garden are all the weeds. How is it that I work so hard to grow these plants, and yet, weeds seem to spring up a foot tall over night? They grow without watering, without plant food and without cultivation. At first, I tried pulling up the most apparent ones and covering the rest with mulch. Within the week, those resilient weeds were pushing through the mulch. I soon realized they must be pulled up by the roots.
So, perhaps my biggest take-away from my summer of gardening is that the weeds that I don’t want to grow tend to spring right up, but the plants that I do want to grow tend to take a great deal of time and effort. Isn’t this a lot like our spiritual lives?
Conforming our lives to Christ (Rom 8:29) doesn’t just happen; it requires effort from us. Becoming like Christ requires nurturing our own souls. We must feed on God’s Word and communicate with Him in prayer. We must sit in the light of His presence and spend time with other believers in corporate worship. Growing in Christ must be a priority in our lives if we want to see any fruit.
But, the weeds in our lives—bitterness, anxiety, pride, anger, and the list could go on—spring up often without us even noticing. From the moment they rise above the surface, we have to always be on the lookout for them and pull them up by the roots. God’s Word instructs us to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior” (Eph 4:31). If we don’t get rid of them but merely push them below the surface of our lives, they will eventually rear their ugly heads and be apparent in our lives.
How do we do this? By tending to the garden of our souls. The more we become like Him, the more we recognize the weeds in our lives. His Holy Spirit teaches us how to dig up the weeds from the roots. One way is by taking every thought captive and asking, “What does God’s Word say about this?” (2 Cor 10:5) Another way is by thinking about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Phil 4:8).
By the end of the summer, my garden looked pretty good—for a beginner! My family enjoyed clipping flowers and putting them on the kitchen table. Most of all, we enjoyed eating our home-grown tomatoes. The watering, feeding and weeding payed off, and the same is true in our lives. When we carve out time to spend in God’s Word and make an intentional effort to grow in Him, we will see His fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Tending to our souls is a lot of work, but the end result will be our lives reflecting Christ. And, that is worth the effort!