This isn’t how it’s done. You brush before the dentist appointment and clean before the maid comes and certainly you pull the weeds before the Master Gardener arrives to look things over in your garden.
But the weeds, see, they grow as deep as they grow tall; they’ve sunk right down into the earth and are anchored tight. If I’d caught them sooner…if…
But now the stems are thick and thorned and cut my hands to ribbons when I try to pull them out. I thought I was smart, back before I called the Master Gardener in desperation on the tan phone in the kitchen, I thought I could just saw off the visible tops of the weeds-grown-feral. At least give the impression that jungle wasn’t taking over.
The weeds took it as a pruning, not a severance. With renewed vigor they thrust up more stems, stalks, and canes; startling hellish exuberance bursting out of the ground and choking out the flowers. It was worse than before. I called the Master Gardener, resignation and pleading and wouldn’t He just come and set it to rights again?
And there He is, looking through the garden gate. He turns and looks at me, me looking at him through the kitchen window and so ashamed. His intensity is hard to read. I put down the dishrag and hear the screen door slam behind me and I twist my hands together while all sorts of excuses climb my throat and fill my mouth. I clamp my lips over the words, He and I both know what happened here.
I gesture to the weeds and my shoulders sag. My tongue pushes the other words aside and lets out “Help”.
He smiles. He smiles and leaps over the garden gate and comically opens the gate for me from within. I walk in and He shows me some baby weeds that I can pull. He rolls up his sleeves and begins to work.
I hear Him in the weeds, grunting and pulling and felling those giants. A dull ache begins in my chest and I struggle to get full breaths. I see his torn hands and sweat and how the weeds come out one-by-one. I see the tall one with the black flowers, Pride-of-Life. Pain lances through me. It is felled beside Vainglory with it’s profuse orange blooms. Down comes Ambition and Envy and Discontent. They lie in a pungent heap, their wild long roots twice the length and width of the weeds themselves. I have the oddest impression that the roots look like fingers and they even seem to reach back towards the soil in animated longing.
He sees my look. “Yes, we’ll have to burn them. Left there they’d replant themselves by morning.” I turn back to my little pile of baby weeds and examine the roots of one. Tiny fingers, faintly moving back towards the dirt. I scream and fling the weed down. He laughs at me.
“Yes, sin is that way, even when so young.”
We work and work, hauling wheelbarrows full of weeds to the fire pit. His hands-I can hardly bear to look at them, cut and bloody. Whenever I think we’re done, He shows me a weed masquerading as a flower; these He is ruthless with, yanking them out with furor. I hold my hand over my heart where the pains throb and throb. “We must at all costs prevent these from going to seed. The weeds that deceive and trick are the deadliest.”
I winced as he pulled a beautiful red one down; it had looked like a kind of rose. He saw my saddened face and came near. He held the roots before my eyes so I could see the eerie reaching tentacles and spoke forcefully, “False-Humility. Give it no quarter. None.” I nodded. Seeing the roots breaks the spell.
We stood beside the fire pit and watched the wretched weeds crackle in the flames. The roots curled inwards and blackened into coiled claws. He stood beside me, so vigilant. It was as if he suspected one would leap out of the fire and make a run for the garden.
My garden…it looked like a war zone. Craters and holes and just a smattering of flowers that survived the weeds’ onslaught. He followed my gaze. “Yes, it looks empty now, but we’ll do some planting to fill it in. The more beneficial plants that we can cover it in, the more difficult it is for weeds to find a home.” He poked the last reaching roots into the coals, his bloody hands gleaming in the firelight. Oh how costly has been my negligence.
“Tomorrow we’ll plant.”
Day broke and we stood together before flats of strange and wonderful plants. One looked so cushy and dense that I was surprised to find it hard as rock and unyielding. “What is this called?”
“That is True-Humility. It is a ground cover that forms a thick and armor-like covering. It’ll protect the other plants from invading weeds and keep the soil’s moisture in.”
“And this?” I asked, fingering a spectacular flowered bush with the most outlandish purple blooms.
“That is Kindness, and it blooms continuously.”
We planted Joy, Peace-in-all-Circumstances, Love-Bearing-All, Perseverance-in-Trial, and Sorrow-for-Sin which smelled sweetly in spite of it’s sad drooping leaves. The garden was empty no longer, feral no longer, and the Master Gardener smiled widely, as did I.
“How can I thank You? I love it. I’ll keep after it better now, I promise.”
His smile left his face. He dropped his eyes to the soil and stooped down. There, right there at our bare feet, was a new weed pushing up through the soil. It grew before our eyes, sending out leaves and flowers and fragrance all in fast-forward.
He bent over and yanked it out and my heart felt a twist within of pain.
“Dear one, do not promise such. Promise only that every morning you will call Me for help. Every morning we must come in here and search for that which destroys and get it before it takes deep root. This is a daily job, not one that should wait, no, not even a day past trouble begins. As strong as the Virtues are, they are not immune to being destroyed by weeds. You must call me every morning, you must or death will reign in this garden rather than life.”
I felt the pains leave my chest and warmth spreading from my heart, outward to my limbs. He embraced me and I leaned in to Him.
“Call Me in the morning, dear one, every morning.”
“Yes, Master, yes.”