For some time, we've been trying to regenerate the worst spots in our ancient lawn, hoping not so much for a luxurious carpet of green but for something a little better than an eyesore. But this process has given me some new insights into lawn-making, thanks to all the time I’ve had to spend watering the new lawn by hand.
At first I was bored almost to tears with this daily chore; I’m not used to having so much time alone with my thoughts, without a Bible or book or blog to ponder, and no means of listening to radio, podcasts or music. But this solitude has given me a great deal of time to pray and think and take a closer look at the Wisconsin arm of God’s splendid creation.
And now that the grass is filling in, I’ve even had some fun observing what scripture tells me about His creation.
For instance, in spite of all that fresh, clean topsoil we spread as a foundation, there are still stubborn spots where the grass refuses to grow – most likely, where our old spreader hiccupped and refused to drop seed. But these little islands have not remained bare; instead, they’ve become home to a huge variety of nasty weeds, the sort that plunge enormous tap roots into the soil almost as soon as they hit the ground.
The other day, it occurred to me that this phenomenon is an apt demonstration of Luke 11:24-26: "When an unclean spirit goes out of a man," Jesus said, "he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first."
The solution? Next time, make sure that there’s plenty of good seed everywhere to stave off the bad. In the meantime, we'll wait to pull these new weeds, “lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them” (Matthew 13:29).
There’s been plenty of time, too, to inspect a few relatively neglected perennial beds. Some of their plants remind me of the rewards of patience, and how Christians are called to “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12b). For a gardener, what better illustration of this principle could there be than seeing, for the first time ever, the lavender-blue spikes of a Baptisia australis planted at least five years ago? Well worth the wait! Hope I remember this in the years to come, Lord willing, as the Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ I just planted across the driveway chugs along, producing plenty of foliage with nary a bloom in sight.
I’ve also noticed the abrupt vanishing of some especially cheerful plants that are such a delight to come across in the summer garden, such as gaillardia and lupine. Short-lived perennials like these remind me of seed sown in stony soil which, as Jesus explained in His parable of the sower, “is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew 13:20-21).
In short, don’t expect plants with shallow root systems to provide more than a season or two of showy blooms.
Of course, once one begins reviewing this particular parable, the gardening parallels are endless – especially those involving the thorns that spring up and choke out all the good seed. No garden is without its thugs, and the aging gardener eventually throws up her trowel and gives up. Far better to spend our days tending to scripture’s spiritual truths, laboring to produce fruit for the Lord rather than feasts for our eyes.