Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lessons from my garden, Part 5

Lesson #5: Some roots are so far traveled, it is impossible for me to see how to completely remove them (or, The problem with mint)

My husband has created a really cool herb garden in our yard. It is the only cool thing about our little yard. It is a container herb garden, meaning all the herbs are growing in containers. Each of 6 very large, modern-looking square pots can hold 3 or 4 different herbs. They are all individually watered with tiny dripping sprinklers, they all drain into a framed floor of pebbles, and not only does the arrangement look cool, the herbs are yummy and healthy and we cook with them almost daily.

But once upon a time, mint entered our garden. Mint was not a bad idea. We love mint - in drinks, on berries, and in lots of other deliciousness. But mint is to a garden as a virus is to a preschool class. It spreads so rapidly that you can't tell where it came from or is going to go next. Everything is just suddenly dominated by it. I don't really know where the mint was originally planted. I believe it started in a container, but somehow jumped down to the main floor of the garden. I am certain, however, that when I began to try to uproot the unwanted portions, which had sprouted up in about 10 different spots, I quickly realized that it was completely out of my control. Unless I was to literally rip up the entire garden, I was not going to be able to pull up all the roots.

In the same way, I know that there are plenty of issues inside myself and my loved ones that we truly have no idea how to uproot. Some hurts or habits run so deep inside our hearts that only God can see their origins. While I am a major advocate of knowing oneself and living an examined life, I also know that there is a boundary line I cannot cross in understanding humankind. That is why this post is necessarily short: I don't have much to say about that which I do not and cannot understand.

I do know these truths, however, and they help me let go of trying to manage issues inside myself or others that I really can't grasp. This first one is a prayer that I need to remind myself of my own ignorance:

Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24

The next passage assures us that if we have given our lives to Jesus, we have Him in our hearts to advocate for us when we don't have a clue. I love that I don't have to know the answers or even the questions. I can just "be," and He knows what I need, knows what the cries of my heart are about:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
Romans 8:26-27

The last passage is my favorite of these, because it is so direct. David is the one who wrote these words, and titled this as a "song for pilgrims." The whole psalm is only 3 verses long, and has a single point - God is God and I am not.

Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—
now and always.
Psalm 131

Elizabeth Elliot writes, "The depths call only to God." There are some things we can work on with God, and some things He has to heal in His timing, in His ways. I may see a problem, have a theory about its origins, and see some evidence that this problem is getting out of control. But that doesn't mean I am capable of uprooting it myself. I took such a firm whack at the mint only because I thought I could manage it. From the surface, it looked simple. Above the ground, the mint had grown up in very small shoots at places. Surely, I could pull it right up. Well, the photo below which captures one portion of the roots I managed to rip up will show you that I was concerning myself with something too awesome for me to grasp, and fail I did.

These thick white roots were like an aerial view of the L.A. freeway system, all just millimeters below the surface of the soil, and sometimes stretching several feet away from any sign of mint itself. And the few leaves of mint that were above the surface paled in comparison. Yet, I kept hacking, yanking, digging, and following the trails. Some pieces were pulled up and severed, but I never got it all. Not even close. Think of this image, when you begin to hack at (or complain about) a problem in yourself or someone else. Do you really know where that thing is rooted? Do you really have a grasp on how far traveled a problem it may be under the surface? Sometimes I just need to put down the trowel, let God handle the mess, and trust that He is a way better gardener than I am.

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