This weekend I set out to tackle a bunch of projects around the house that I have been seriously neglecting: uninstalled laundry room doors, an incessantly buzzing fan, a lady bug infestation, a swivel-y toilet seat. The biggest project though was attacking the small jungle that had taken root in the yard and was starting to grow over the sidewalk.
Weeds are funny, aren’t they? The first day you spot them, you make a mental note: I need to come out here and get them while they’re tiny. When you make this observation, you’re likely holding 18 grocery bags on one arm because you don’t want to make another trip and as you begin losing sensation in your fingers, you forget about the weeds.
In what seems like two seconds, the weeds have grown from tiny little sprigs to full-on vegetative monsters. The monsooning in Georgia these last few weeks sure hasn’t helped and now the solution that makes the most sense is burning your whole yard and just starting over. Or making a rock garden. Or embracing the weeds like a good townie and starting a garage band and begging the neighbors to DEAL WITH IT. I went to Lowes instead and bought some weed killer and a pair of yard gloves and set to work.
My parents would be mortified if they saw my yard. Growing up, my siblings and I all helped take care of our yard, rotating the mowing/edging/weed-wacking duties and were always on call for pulling unsightly weeds at first notice. My we had a garden and a few citrus trees that needed constant love and attention and huge magnolias that dropped their leaves all over the driveway like dollar billz in a rap video. There was always something to be mowed, raked, or pulled, and as a team we did a pretty good job of it. In the summertime, my arms would be toned and tanned from the work and I’d take breaks to grab an orange off the tree and dangle my feet in the lake. My mom always said that a farmer’s tan was a good thing… that the absence of tan lines meant you had too much time to sit around inside or, heaven forbid, lay out in the sun whilst appropriately rotisserie-ing yourself.
Saturday afternoon was sunny, but deceivingly cold. My yard in Athens is a fraction of a fraction of the yard I grew up tending, but somehow when you’re not earning allowance for it, it seems daunting. I tore into the jungle, numb fingers and runny nose, remembering my Dad’s words to make sure to get deep enough to get the root or it wasn’t going to do anything. As that thought resonated in my mind, it brought to mind the sermon from church the following weekend– how if we aren’t killing the sin in our lives, it’s killing us. You can’t just rip out the top, but have to get deep and get to the root in order to remove it completely.
At first, the weeds didn’t seem like a big deal. And before I knew it, they had bloomed out of control. The roots were deep. There wasn’t actually much left of my yard that could be called Grass and not Weeds. It was a laborious process… a never ending exercise of see the weed, find the root, pull hard, dig it out, move on to the next weed. I worked the whole afternoon only to have it look like I didn’t even do anything. Those weeds started out tiny– like gossip or a small lie. And before I could even take those 18 grocery bags off my arms, it had sprouted, choking out the good grass and overtaking the whole yard. It occurred to me that I treat my “little sins” that way… that I ignore them and think “I’ll get to you later when I’m not so busy.” And soon they’re overwhelming and all-consuming and there’s nothing left of my yard that can be called good. It wasn’t even a yard anymore, just a garden of weeds and sneaking, creeping tendrils. My heart feels that way sometimes.
I read a book last summer by Jerry Bridges called The Disciplin of Grace where he addresses what he calls “refined sins” or “acceptable sins."
The acceptable sins are subtle in the sense that they deceive us into thinking they are not so bad, or not thinking of them as sins, or even worse, not even thinking about them at all! Yes, some of our refined sins are so subtle that we commit them without even thinking about them, either at the time or afterward. We often live in unconscious denial of our “acceptable” sins.
It was time to bust out the weed killer. I sprayed my entire yard with the stuff and I am just waiting, like a predator to its prey, to see if it kills everything. I was like a madman out there spraying… I WILL NOT BE DEFEATED BY YOU, WEEDS HAHAHAHAAAA! Achy back and a little dizzy from the fumes, I stood sweating in the cold Georgia sun, thankful that we have the One who took our weeds and our sins and killed them once and for all and made our entirely horrible yards into something beautiful.
Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.