Gardening has always been one of my passions in life. For 39 years I planned, planted, fertilized, and pruned my flower beds, checking almost daily to see what new growth had emerged or what needed to be deadheaded, eagerly anticipating the next season’s splash of color. Moving to a condominium complex where I am no longer in charge of the landscape has been a major shift. The sight of dandelions and some emerging thistles has become a distraction, but also a revelation of some ugly weeds growing in my heart.
I now live in community; I have close neighbors with whom I share space. While I’ve always enjoyed being independent, doing my own thing, in His providence God has given me new opportunities to practice what it is to be a good neighbor. And, I haven’t always done it well. When my neighbors scattered wildflower seeds in the flower bed adjacent to my drive-way, I thought those flowers, which are so stunning in their natural setting, were a scraggly, brown eye-sore for most of the summer. And after a well-meaning neighbor spread fertilizer on the grass in the heat of the summer without watering I found it hard to think kindly of her.
But with some landscape eyesores have come some lessons. In His grace and patience, God’s spirit has been showing me that I’ve been more concerned with curb appeal than making the appeal for Christ as His ambassador in my neighborhood. He’s been using every little intrusive weed to shower contempt on all my pride. And I’m convinced that, although George MacDonald’s poem, Obedience, was written more than 100 years ago, it was written with me in mind.
I said: “Let me walk in the fields,”
He said: “No, walk in the town.”
I said: “There are no flowers there.”
He said: “No flowers, but a crown.”
I said: “But the skies are black;
There is nothing but noise and din.”
And He wept as he sent me back—
“There is more,” He said; “there is sin.”
I said: “But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun.”
He answered: “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone!”
I said: “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say.”
He answered: “Choose tonight
If I am to miss you or they.”
I pleaded for time to be given.
He said: “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem so hard in heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide.”
I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;
He said, “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?
Then into his hand went mine;
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light divine;
The path I had feared to see.
What’s growing in your garden?