Grace Among the Weeds

I’ve been a very negligent gardener this year.  Things started well in the spring.  With the help of a neighbor and his rototiller, I created a new bed for tomatoes, so they didn’t hog all the room in my raised beds.  Then I got busy with beans, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, onions, and about a dozen herbs.  I got them all in the ground and was very faithful with watering them… for about two weeks.

It was a hard summer.  The common wisdom is that church life slows down in the summer, and I was really counting on that.  I was bone tired by Memorial Day and looking for a chance to take some quality Sabbath time… to heal, to re-member, as a Bible study group talked about just last week.  But instead of slowing down, things got even busier.  On top of that, I was dealing with some tough stuff personally.  I was stretched so thin that I just didn’t have it in me to nurture another living thing, human, animal, or in this case, garden plants.

So I quit weeding.  I quit watering.  I generally ignored the garden as the weeds grew taller than the plants that I had so carefully put there just weeks earlier. I would look out the window and see the pathetic-looking garden beds, and I would just turn away.  The garden got more and more overgrown.  Every once in a while I would think that I saw a bit of red among the tomato plants; but it was too much work to go out and check.  I gave it up for a lost cause.

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve started to get my balance back. I’ve done a better job of getting sleep, I’ve made some decisions that needed making, I’ve taken some time each day to read or knit or design a weaving project. So today, I thought I was ready to tackle the garden.

I went out and started to pull weeds out of the new tomato bed.  I was surprised to see how tenaciously those tomato plants had struggled to produce fruit, even when they were being choked out by weeds.  In spite of my neglect all summer, today I was able to find about half a dozen ragged tomatoes still hanging on the vines.

Then I moved to the other garden beds.  As I expected, I found dried out beans, lettuce long gone to seed, and one giant zucchini.  But the big surprise was that I found some healthy tomato plants with fruit and lots of blossoms… that I had not planted!  They were apparently volunteer plants from last year, whose seeds had survived the Wisconsin winter and a season of neglect.  The best plants in my garden, as it turned out, were plants that I had nothing to do with.  But the fruit is there, ready for me to pick and enjoy.

Isn’t that just how it is? We struggle and flounder to do things by our own efforts, and the biggest lesson we learn is how inadequate we are. And then, without any effort or actions on our part, God provides for us in ways we could never have imagined.

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  (Luke 12:24-25, 27)

I think I’ll have a tomato with my supper tonight.

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Barbara Bruneau

Barbara Bruneau is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She is recently retired, having previously served congregations in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Barbara enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and weaving. She shares her home with Russell, a solid charcoal gray cat with an attitude; Khaleesi, a tortoiseshell rescue cat still getting accustomed to being around people; and Sadie, a beagle-and-yellow-lab mix

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