I was winded and my back was dripping sweat. The clothes I’d worn to work that day, necklace and all, were already covered in dirt. I’d only been out here what, 15, 20 minutes? Maybe it’d been closer to an hour. I wasn’t keeping track. I should know what time it is. The kids were already starting to whine that they were hot and thirsty and wanted to go home. This was supposed to have been a quick trip.
“Almost got it,” I muttered to myself between grunts.
Why had I thought this was such a good idea? I didn’t know the first thing about gardening.
It had all started off so well. “Come to an informational meeting about your local community garden,” they said. So I went… and learn I did! It was all so wholesome and inspiring. So of course I got bit by the “sign-up-for-your-very-own-organic-garden-plot” bug. What did I have to lose? Besides, something inside of me was urging me forward. I needed a garden… yes, that was it! That would be therapeutic and healing; to get my hands in the dirt and bring forth goodness.
So I gave in to the voice telling me to let go of fear and plunge into a new adventure. I’d just have to learn as I went.
Well, thank the Lord for helping hands! Who knew that preparing a 4 x 24 empty plot of dirt would be so much work!? There are so many things you need to think about before you begin – things like, “What’s the acidity level of your soil?” “Don’t forget to fertilize!” “Make sure you research which crops are seasonal right now.” “Don’t kill the earthworms while you’re tilling!” And, oh yeah, “Do you even know how to use the tiller?”
And because Jesus is kind and compassionate, on the day I set out to break ground, I happened to catch the two very best people for the job already there, who actually freed their schedule to jump in to my mess and help me get it done!
Isn’t that, after all, what we all need sometimes? Someone who will, without hesitation, jump into our mess… who won’t judge us, or be deterred by our inexperience and the long process ahead… who will freely teach us what we need to know as we go? Those are the real heroes of life after all.
Well thanks to their help, within a matter of hours, I boasted a beautifully prepared, earthworm-laden little garden, ready to give life! I told anyone who would listen about my new venture, and it wasn’t long before the plants began rolling in… eggplant, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, watermelon, butternut squash… how were they all going to fit?! I spaced them as best I could, and let the earth do it’s job.
For the first few months, I couldn’t get out there often enough! I’d rumble down the street several times a week, hauling the kids in their big red wagon and we’d check out all the new growth. I was watering and weeding like a pro, and it was paying off! My little garden was bursting with life and flourishing like I’d never imagined. This was easy!
That is until the heat of summer came, and suddenly, those “little trips” down the street turned into giant ordeals, after which we all needed a bath and a long, cold drink. Life got busy, and the trips slowly died down until, until one day they stopped altogether.
Well, apparently gardens don’t get along very well if you neglect them for too long. As shown below, this was the final result of my embarressingly too-long summer neglect.
After a long hot summer, everything was overrun and over-grown. September came and went, and I finally braced myself to face the mess. It was time to pull everything out and start over from scratch.
So, I started purging. But in the process, I started realizing that I had a problem …. with briars. I had noticed them at the beginning of the summer, but most of them had just gotten chopped back and forgotten about. But now, here they were, waiting for me again. Apparently I had inherited a garden boasting a significant population of these prickly little pests.
If you’ve ever dealt with briars, you’ll understand. They are spindly, thorny little vines, and they will grow back, no matter how many times you cut them back… unless…. you dig up the root.
These roots live deep down below the surface – often more than a foot deep, and boy, are they stubborn! IF you manage to trace the vine down to its source, you’ll find a fat, ugly, bulbous root, packed so tightly into the earth around it that extracting it is, well, what I imagine removing a brain tumor would be like – tedious and exhausting. (But so satisfying!)
Somehow, I started becoming obsessed with digging up these ugly roots. I’m not really sure how all these briars found their way to my particular garden plot, but what I quickly became sure of was this – I wanted them gone!
And that’s exactly what I found myself doing, in my work clothes, hot and tired, and losing track of time.
“Who had this garden before me anyway?” I muttered. Didn’t they know what a mess they had left for me to clear out? What was their problem anyway? I directed my questions to the Lord. “Why are all these roots even here? How did they end up in MY garden? And why do I care about digging them up? No one else did. I could just cut them back. Then I could start planting sooner. I could do what everyone else is doing. Why am I so obsessed with these ROOTS?”
I quickly heard a sweet, gentle whisper in my spirit, “Because you’re good at this, Bethany. You’re good at getting these roots out.” Something inside of me instinctively knew that He wasn’t just talking about briars – He was talking about so much more than just this little piece of dirt.
“I know it’s hard work, and I know its frustrating. I know you wish someone else had dug them out first. But the truth is, they didn’t have the tools required to get these roots out. It wasn’t their job. It’s yours. I’m not punishing you… I know it feels that way sometimes. But it’s actually my gift to you. A special, and rare gift that people need, even if they don’t know it. It’s a gift you will pass down to your children, and to their children. This ability to see and dig up ugly roots is part of your inheritance from me.”
The tears started flowing. I knew He was speaking to me about my life. My family. The generational curses passed down, whose symptoms I was currently battling. My frustration. My longing. My disappointment. The fighter spirit inside of me that wouldn’t let go. All of it. Exemplified so clearly through these ugly little roots.
I didn’t get to dig up all the roots that day. There’s still lots of work to be done in my little garden. And maybe there always will be. But today? Today I know something I didn’t know before. I know that the work I’m doing matters. It matters for me. It matters for my children, and for their children. It matters for the ones who came before me, who couldn’t do it. It might be dirty, and messy, and frustrating, and may often go unnoticed. But it matters.
Today, it matters that I know who I am, that I know what I’m working towards, and that I know I’m loved unconditionally. And today? That’s enough.