Patience in the Garden
It’s around 10:30 am at one of the greenhouses. I’m on my hands and knees tending to rows of strawberry plants grouped along the perimeter of the house, beside the thick plastic walls. Outside, a fresh cold-front is sweeping through Campina, Romania, so I’m thankful to be inside where it’s warm. Behind me, fresh rows of well-tilled soil are full of onions, basil, and romaine lettuce. The narrow path I’m kneeling on is well-walked and compact. In my left hand, I have a trowel –a mini gardening shovel– to help me turn up the coarse soil. Because strawberries return year after year, they simply leave them alone. This is both good and bad because it doesn’t damage the strawberry plants and keeps a good fruit coming back year after year; yet, bad because it makes weeding them difficult.
As I’m going from weed to weed, the Lord begins to speak to me as He sometimes does through the truth of His scripture. I seldom feel closer to God than when I’m doing something in nature. (Before I say anything else, I should clarify…I love strawberries! As a child, I remember my mom keeping what seemed like a football field sized patch of strawberries in the front of her garden.) So, as I’m kneeling there, plucking these cancerous weeds from the bowels of this heavenly fruit, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares comes to mind (Mt.13:24-30).
Here, with delicacy, I’m parting these very vulnerable and frail vines to expose spiny, coarse, weeds. Of course, from a distance you can see the weeds, their leaves, size, and oddities are blatantly obvious in the midst of the strawberries. But removing them is another task altogether. I mean, if I’m not careful, I damage the vines and the tender little green and yellow beginnings of what will later become a lush red, delicious fruit will wither and die; therefore, I must be precise or, as the parable aptly teaches, refuse to touch them altogether. Thankfully, I was able to remove almost all of them! Is it silly to say ‘Praise God’ over that? I’m not sure. But one thing I am certain of is God’s ability to work through us as instruments for His glory, to do both what seems to be the mundane and the important alike. Now, after six hours of patient work, I was able to aid in the fruitfulness of a harvest. Did I prick my fingers? Did my lower back and knees ache at the end of the day and for a few days after? Were there some I was unable to pluck no matter how hard I tried and how determined I was to use the tools I had at my disposal to do so? Friends, removing weeds is not a job to be done hastily. Be patient. Get to the root, but if you cannot, or if it seems as though you will not be able to remove the blemish in the midst of the fruit, do not force your hand. You may damage the fruit in the process.