I have an app on my phone that names flowers, animals, and trees. I would say it has a success rate of about 30 per cent. I used it to take a picture of my son Thomas, and it came up, sure and certain, that he was a hamster.
Even with its flaws, the app has been helpful to me as I try to understand the plethora of flowers growing in the garden of our new home. Without the app, I would really be at a loss.
The names of some of the flowers give me a laugh sometimes. One little invasive but pretty weed has the lofty name of yellow archangel. Its secondary name is weasel snout. That’s quite the variance. I guess it’s up to the viewer to decide.
I discovered a new little flower this past month. It reminded me of Queen Anne’s lace, a little white canopy with a cluster of small flowers. I didn’t remember it being there last summer, but it was pretty as it scattered itself amid the columbine and lilies.
Well, a friend, with a much higher rate of flower-naming success, more like 99 per cent – in English and Latin, I’ll have you know – came to take a look at the garden. Her name is Dorothy, aptly named, as the patron saint of gardeners is St. Dorothy. (I think she should start her own app.) Regardless, as she walked by my white mystery flowers, she diplomatically mentioned that it was called goutweed or bishop’s weed, and that if I didn’t get rid of the corrupt bishop in my backyard, I’d soon be overtaken by the Holy See.
So, over a period of two days, I dug and pulled and cried. Generally, when I pull weeds, like those blasted buttercups, I meditate on sin and how it spreads and chokes out beauty and goodness that lie in the soil, a seed waiting to be fed and given space to grow. But as I dug out the roots of the goutweed, my thoughts went all over the place.
Goutweed doesn’t have roots in the soil, it has demons, sown by the enemy. They intertwine and re-root exponentially, into solid bricks of terror. Any little piece of root that gets left in the soil will somehow make its way back into the earth to begin anew. It’s recommended that you burn what you pull out. I was literally pulling out bricks.
As I pulled them out, trying to carefully leave the other flowers uninjured, the soil seemed to thank me for my efforts. A nice pathway re-formed itself around a few bushes, and I could see some plants that had been struggling to survive start to stand up straight again. Recalling Jesus’ warning “lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them” (Mt 13:29), I couldn’t remove everything.
You might think that this would be the perfect opportunity to meditate on sins, choking out life and beauty. And certainly that came to mind. But it occurred to me that these little beauties were much more subtle than sin. They had the appearance of gentleness and grace. They grew among the other flowers, complementing them and filling out what might have become a barren soil. They seemed good.
Instead of sin I kept thinking of busyness, of distraction, of missions, and even of potential Christian works that fill our hearts and minds, seemingly good … seemingly the work of God?
But these things that fill our days with a sense of accomplishment are possibly the very things that are actually separating us from the work God calls us to. I myself have found that my mind is pulled in so many directions. In this stage of my life I have opportunities to do many good things, things that are truly a part of building God’s kingdom. They are good things!
But I find myself, slowly and stubbornly, discerning that in fact they are distracting me from the simple, quiet, humble work that God has called me to. For me, this is being a wife and a mother to my children, raising, education, and loving young saints in training. In my many weaknesses, that is a hard enough calling.
I am called by God to love him above all things, and my neighbour as myself. Perhaps some of the other things that I find I am suddenly overwhelmed with, all acts of mercy in their way, are in fact distracting me from my ultimate purpose.
I certainly am not suggesting that mothers have no place in the works of the Church outside of the kitchen. I would be in big trouble if that were the case. But I am suggesting that I myself am often struggling for time to be with God, while at the same time I am rushing about thinking that I am doing things for him. But if those things are actually bringing disorder to my day, if they are crowding out the humble seeds truly sown by God, then those good works are actually a tool of the enemy.
So there you have it, my garden meditation. My fingernails are full of dirt, and my back is sore. But in the humble quiet of weeding the garden, with my children running about me and offering to help, I had some time to meditate and think of God’s works.
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