Monday, September 1, 2014

Weeding the Garden of Your Heart

In only a few short days, these weeds have overtaken my dianthus flowers so that you can't even see their foliage!
For the first time in what seems like forever, the temperature outside this morning was almost chilly.  I decided to take advantage of this blessing and spend some time pulling weeds from my poor, neglected garden.  As I'm sure is the case for many an avid gardener, I often have the best conversations with God in the peace and quiet among my flower beds.  And because I love tangible results in anything I'm doing, pulling weeds is an extremely satisfying task.

Since it's been a few weeks since I've set foot in my garden for anything other than watering, I had quite the mess on my hands.  The only thing to do was to start on the far end and work my way to the other, one green invader at a time.  As I started making progress, I started realizing the parallels between weeds among our flowers and the weeds of sin on our hearts.

What are weeds, really?  When I was a kid, I always heard the old-timers refer to weeds as something growing where you didn't want it to.  But they're more than that.  True weeds choke out beneficial plants, robbing them of the nutrients they need to bear mature fruit.  Weeds grow much more aggressively, entangling themselves around other plants until it becomes difficult or impossible to separate the two.  Weeds aren't picky; they'll grow rampantly in the poorest or richest of soils, and make do with whatever water and nutrients they can steal from their surroundings.  In our hearts, weeds are not so obvious and easy to identify.  They spring up from burying ourselves in the cares of this world, getting trapped up in the allure of material things, or placing the pleasures of the world above God's will for our lives.   

As we read in Matthew 13:25-28, the seeds of the worldly weeds in our hearts are sown by the enemy.  As these seeds germinate and grow, they distract us from our relationship with God and take up the space in our hearts for godly thoughts.  If allowed to take root, they can slow our spiritual growth, sometimes even stop it altogether, and prevent us from producing mature spiritual fruit. 

The top photo is a weed.  The bottom is one of my favorite plants, purslane.  Aside from the flowers, they're nearly identical! 
Some weeds look just like the plants I've purposefully planted in my garden, and I sometimes question whether they're truly weeds or just a friendly little volunteer seedling.  The weeds in our heart are just as sneaky.  Satan doesn't come to us looking like himself.  He disguises himself in light, looking very much like everything we've ever wanted.  And that's how he gets his foot in the door.  Remember, he is a thief.  He wants to distract you from God and His will for your life.  He wants you to dwell on things that are no good for you.  He wants to steal the nutrients of your heart meant for bearing good fruit.

The good news is that God has lovingly provided us with His own special blend of weed killer.  In Philippians 4:8, His word tells us, "finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."  When you nourish those thoughts, they will grow and flourish.

A pretty little periwinkle trying to make its home in the rocks of my patio.  If I leave it there, it will grow for awhile, but it will soon need more space and the heat will be too intense, and it will die.

It's very important to tend to the garden of your heart (hopefully more frequently than I do my actual flower garden, by the way).  Carving out time each day to spend in God's word is the most important maintenance your heart requires.  God craves you.  He rewards those who diligently seek Him.  His deepest desire is to be in relationship with you.  Matthew 13 presents the parable of the sower. If your heart is not properly tilled, the seeds that God sows there through His word will at first be joyfully received, but without the proper soil, the roots won't be able to take hold, and those sprouts will never fully develop.  You hear the word, and while you believe it, when troubles and hardships come your way, the soil of your heart isn't fortified with the nutrients it needs, so you quickly abandon the hope that is yours for the taking. Don't just be hearers of the word, be doers.  Believe and trust in Him who is able, the Great I Am.

This sweet little celosia apparently overwintered in my flower bed!  I haven't planted any celosia this year, and this plant is an annual, so it shouldn't have survived.  I love it when I find these little gems every year!

In Proverbs 3:3, we're reminded to "let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."  When you spend time in God's word every day, impressing His truths upon your heart, those seeds of love and hope will settle themselves in the soil of your heart.  During the trials of life, you'll be amazed to find that those seeds have germinated into full-grown vines of hope and truth.  What you may have forgotten you'd tucked away will now sustain you.  All of God's seeds grow into perennials!  They just keep coming back, time after time, to remind you of His love and faithfulness! 

This purple basil started out as a tiny little sprout this spring.  I found it inside of the pot of another plant I'd purchased at a nursery, and transplanted it to this spot.  Not kidding, it was two inches tall at the time.  Within a few weeks, it grew to a 5-ft tall shrub!
Another amazing thing about God's word...it fills up the space in your heart until it overflows!  The more time and energy you spend filling your heart with God and His truth, the richer the soil of your heart becomes.  Luke 6:45 teaches us that "a good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart."  

Friends, our God in Heaven loves us so much.  So much that He sent His only begotten Son to take our place on the cross.  To pay the wages of our sin.  To tear the veil that separates us from Himself.  All He wants from us is that we seek a relationship with Him.  And as we seek Him and grow in Him, He will sanctify us, bringing us closer and closer to His side, and refining us until we are more and more like Jesus.  And one day, we will walk together with Him in His perfect garden.  

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