The irony of my struggle with the shady semi-circle bordering our front driveway does not escape me. When we moved into this house, the “garden” consisted of two peony bushes in the backyard, a few pathetic irises that seemed apologetic for their existence, and a semi-circle of wild daylilies in the front bordering said driveway.
It Creeps . .
Valiantly, I spent many summers trying to rid the area of creeping bellflowers. When we moved in, I thought the purple bell-shaped wildflowers were lovely. Soon, I understood just why that “creeping” part was in the name.
With amazing resourcefulness, they attempted to overtake the entire front yard–and largely succeeded. Pulling one accomplished nothing but, I suspect, encouraging quiet snickering and a renewed zeal for life. The root systems infiltrate the soil faster than a fiber optic connection. Not liking chemicals, and liking very much the native violets that would also perish, I refused to spray.
I have never seen a more capable plant.
Meanwhile, in that semi-circle I try to establish ground covers. Lamium, bugle, sweet woodruff—all happily adapt to the shady crescent of dirt. A couple plants in particular seem bent on sending adventurous runners outward at an astonishing rate.
As I weed out the unwanted, I laugh at the irony of it. Both plants would fill in this space joyfully, yet I strive to eliminate one and establish the other. What annoys and frustrates me in one plant delights me in the other. One plant I want to do exactly what I hate the other one for doing.
If we gardeners were truthful, we’d recognize this happens more often than not. One gardener’s weed is another’s native wildflower.
Many of God’s gifts also act that way in our soul gardens. Used as intended, His presents can give pleasure and beauty. Uncontrolled, they can override the good things we try to establish.
God intended sexuality, for example, as a lovely flower in a person’s garden, to excite pleasure and create families and to perfume the entire garden of a permanent relationship.
Outside those boundaries, however, it quickly becomes an invasive weed, crowding out important aspects of your relationships, strangling your emotional health, and cropping up unexpectedly long afterward, forcing you to deal with hurts you thought you’d already eliminated.
God’s Gifts Cover Our Ground
The same applies to our God-given personalities. Our greatest strengths, it seems, can become our greatest weaknesses with frightening speed. Every thing God gives for His glory and our good can be easily twisted to its negative potential.
So when they were younger, I told my firstborn daughter—God gave you a gifted intelligence. You can use it to learn about Him and help others understand His love, or you can become prideful and cynical. God gave you sensitivity to lavish compassion and encouragement on others, or it can be used to make you defensive and paranoid instead.
I knew both of these truths first hand.
I told my second daughter, God made you tall and loud (!!)—a natural leader. You can display a good example for others to follow, or you can become a domineering slave to popularity.
One day, she told me about the little girl in her second grade class whom the others teased and shunned, a child who couldn’t keep up with normal tasks like reading and adding. She looked down as she told me about the other kids, her best friends, refusing to use the drinking fountain after ‘Melissa’ had touched it. Then she looked up. “But I don’t think Jesus would do that, Mommy. I think He’d be her friend. And I’m going to be, too. Maybe, the other kids will be nice if I am.”
She could have easily planted weeds in her garden (and in Melissa’s) by using her leadership to secure popularity. But instead, she used it to teach others how to treat one of “the least of these.”
As they grew, I continued to watch both girls as those realities played out. Some days they chose to let those strengths work for good—some days for evil. We all do. Their mother didn’t do much better. But the truth is, we choose what we allow to overrun the garden.
God’s great gifts can make a stunning masterpiece of us, or they can run rampant, taking over our soul garden with our idolatry and misuse of them. The same plant can be a weed or a wildflower. It all depends on how we use it.