In the Garden of Life, What Are You Planting?

I love flowers. I have a few favorites, but for the most part, I enjoy them all. There’s something about a vibrant vase-full brightening an otherwise plain table or the emergence of striking petals erupting from landscaped beds of traditional shrubs. If you ask me, flowers bloom more than just petals – they bring life. They add playful colors, sweet fragrances and some even have slow dances with the sun, opening and closing their petals with daylight or turning their faces throughout the day to keep their gaze on their source of energy. They are given as gifts of love, celebration and even comfort. Indeed, they’re worth the effort of pruning, feeding and fertilizing, because they bring so much to us.

…Unless they’re the little yellow flowers we know as dandelions.

Although most of us likely recall giving a little hand-picked bouquet of these backyard “beauties” to our mother at some point in our youth, we all know now that they’re actually weeds. They spread quickly, have strong root systems and rob nutrients and hydration from grass and other nearby plants. Once they begin to root in an area, they multiply quickly and can be difficult to eradicate. Even after pulling them out, they can re-establish themselves unless you get the entire root system, which can grow as deep as a foot or more underground. With just one inch remaining, these little buggers can work the ground they’re in and force a new shoot of growth to the surface. Once there, they sprout fluffy white balls that can scatter upwards of 200 seeds on a windy day, almost assuring their longevity in the area. They’re hearty and stubborn, forcing their stay in your lawn and landscape whether you want them or not.

Since this isn’t a home and garden blog, why do I share all this? Because there’s a relevant life analogy in this flowers versus weeds scenario, and we need to be aware in order to cultivate beautiful gardens of life. 

While God is the ultimate Provider, He also gives us free will. He gives us each different personalities and preferences, varied skills and talents, and unique strengths and weaknesses. But, He doesn’t mandate how our gardens should be organized, which genres to include, nor where or how they should be arranged. And though He clarifies through scripture which are flowers and which are weeds, He allows us the choice of which to plant, water and fertilize. Either has the opportunity to thrive. 

The question is, which will we immerse in the soil of our lives?

The Weeds

When we consider the first garden ever created, we must realize that it was absolute perfection. The Garden of Eden is what God has always wanted for us (and why He sent Jesus as the way for us to return to Him).  It wasn’t until sin entered the garden that weeds began to creep into our lives, and Satan – the father of weeds – carefully planned their composition much like that of a dandelion. Pervasive roots, scattered seeds that easily flourish and deceptively cheery facades, constantly tricking us into envy, temptations, addictions and sin patterns.

For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. (1 John 2:16 NLT)

The enemy regularly lures us, just as he did Eve in the Garden of Eden. In our day and age, he often uses popular culture, marketing trends and social media to make us doubt the beauty of what God has already planted in our lives. He lies to us, making us believe we don’t have enough flowers, they’re not pretty enough, or don’t have the most pleasing fragrance. He disguises his weeds as flowers and then get us to plant them in our gardens, sometimes without even realizing what we’ve done. He’s masterful. And deceptive. And let’s not forget, he came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

In Lysa TerKeurst’s book , “It’s Not Supposed to Be the Way“, she describes how Satan’s plan played out in Genesis 3 with Eve and was revealed perfectly in 1 John 2:16. Astonishingly, Satan used the exact same tactics when tempting Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4 (and he tries to use them against us every day too!)

    1. Satan temps with physical gratification – whether food, sexual, alcohol or other substances. Satan tempted Eve with fruit, which “was good for food” (Genesis 3:6). He tempted Jesus with bread while He was on a fast. (Matthew 4:3-4)
    2. He makes us lust after more, then leverages the loss of contentment and desire for material things. Satan tempted Eve by drawing her attention to what was “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6) and showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and told Him that He could have it all. (Matthew 4:8-10).
    3. He uses pride to make us obsess about our accomplishments, status and significance. Satan tempted Eve by promising an increased awareness which would make her become more like God (Genesis 3:4-5) and Jesus by telling Him to throw Himself off the highest point of the temple and command the angels to save Him (Matthew 4:5-7). Wouldn’t that be an impressive feat to command the praise and awe of the world?!

These are weeds that can easily take root in our gardens if we’re not tending carefully. Thankfully, we can see the contrast to Eve’s deception versus Jesus’ triumph over Satan’s schemes. While she engaged and thought she had everything under control (which she didn’t), Jesus immediately shut down every attempt with Scripture. In response, the devil left Him and angels came and attended Him (Matthew 4:11).

Jesus showed us how to apply weed-killer!

The Flowers

Ultimately, we all want a perfectly kept garden of colorful, gorgeous and fragrant flowers. While we’re not guaranteed that during our time on earth, God surely has given us the award-winning Home and Garden periodical for impeccable design and routine maintenance. It’s called the Bible, and its Holy inspiration invites us to learn about the God of all creation, His great love for us and His desire to share eternity with us in another perfect place He is preparing for us. Until that day comes, the Bible describes over and over again these three ways to plant and maintain glorious gardens of life on earth:

    1. Love GodJesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). In order to love God, you have to know Him, understand His character and how He wants to relate to you (as a Father!). Pray before opening your Bible and ask God to reveal Himself and His love for you. He will!
    2. Love others – The above-mentioned verses continue, And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:39-40). Jesus loved sacrificially, literally giving His life for others. While He doesn’t ask us to do exactly the same, He does command that we’re not selfish and that others’ needs would be prioritized at least as much as our own. How can you do that today?
    3. Partner with the Holy Spirit and be reminded of Truth continually – Jesus wasn’t tempted because He had scripture on the tip of His tongue. He didn’t waver and was held strong because of it. Thankfully, for us who believe, we have the Holy Spirit in us to teach and remind us of God’s Truth in our information-overload world (John 14:26). We can do more than read. We can memorize and carry God’s Word in our hearts, and we can ask our Advocate (what Jesus called Him!) to help us win the battle.

Friends, it’s our choice how we plant our gardens. God has shown us how to plant flowers and how to guard against weeds. He even promises to be with us to help tend to our lives and thrive in the spaces where He has us. But the winds blow often and from every direction. Are you watching for the weeds? Will you have the courage to pull them before they root too deeply?

Father God, we come to You today in humility, because we need more of You in our world and in our lives. I confess that sometimes I miss the weeds that the enemy plants. Sometimes I don’t have the energy or even the knowledge to pull the entire root system. But You do. So I ask You, Lord, to fill me with your Spirit, to empower me to do Your will and to flourish in the garden where you have me planted. All for Your glory. Amen.

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