Have I mentioned that I am the world's worst gardener?
Some people consider themselves bad gardners because they can't keep their plants alive. I, too, have killed my fair share of plants. Saddest among these is the cherry tomato plant that my parents gave me - in a pot, already flowering, just add water! - a few years back. It grew about six tomatoes and then died. Finito.
But that's not my biggest problem. My biggest problem is, actually, my ability to grow too many plants. Of the indigenous variety (ahem).
Weeds. Weeds upon weeds upon weeds. I'm the world's worst gardener because I don't have time nor discipline to pull weeds. And so now all of the garden beds around my house are competely overrun, and it's already July, and in my own rationalizing brain, July is almost the end of summer, and the end of summer is almost fall, and I figure that my gardens are just past the point of pruning this season, and so it's probably just as well that I don't bother pulling any weeds because they're going to die off over the winter anyway.
I'm a terrible gardener.
The weeds I hate the most are the thistles. We've had a lot of rain in the last few weeks, and the thistles, more than any other weeds, have grown by leaps and bounds. I seem to notice them when they are small, and then ignore them for a day, and by the next morning, they are thorny, flowering, and three feet tall.
I've done epic battle with thistles once this summer already. Grabbing shovels and gloves and prying these tall, stabby plants out of the ground.
And I've been thinking about how thistles grow up prickly and deeply rooted, stubborn as all get out and resistant to being uprooted...and the way that human nature is so very much like this.
I'm currently writing a sermon based on this image, talking about how God seeks to pull us up from the soil and replant us into his kingdom, but we are just like those thistles, standing tall and digging in deep and getting all thorny and prickly, because being uprooted is painful and uncertain and stretches us and tugs us in all sorts of new directions, and change is hard.
In my own life, I am very thistley. I like patterns, establishments, roots. And it takes me serious time to put down roots. We've been in Decorah for a little over a year now, and I still don't feel completely grounded.
God uprooted us from a seriously established life outside Chicago to come here - a life that involved nearly four years serving my first congregation, nearly all of my family nearby, an apartment that was just twenty miles from the house where I grew up (where my parents still live). I had a serious sense of place there. And it was so hard to be uprooted.
Leaving, packing, moving, learning new names, settling into routines, setting new schedules, managing new expectations: HARD WORK. And worth it, certainly.
But it doesn't mean that I didn't feel stubborn and prickly when it was all happening. I dug into the soil with my toes and squared my shoulders.
I can preach a million sermons about why all things work together for good, and about how God never uproots us without plans to transplant us, and how even when God turns the world upside down for the sake of his kingdom, we are never left alone or hopeless. I can believe deeply that this world is temporary and that all life is fleeting and that God's new heavens and new earth are going to someday come breaking through the clouds.
But it doesn't change my own desire to be rooted and grounded, to have a sense of place and permanence, to grow up tall in one spot, to live in a world of patterns and establishments and knowing what to expect. I mean, isn't there something comforting in settling in, and isn't there something enticing about the luxury of complacency?
I don't think that God's going to let me get away with this, though.
Because before the rain rolls in this afternoon, I'm going to do battle once again with the thistles in the garden. And if I am motivated enough to uproot some prickly thistles, then how much moreso is God motivated enough, when the time is right, to pluck up the parts of my own life that need a little uprooting and transplanting!
Ah, my friends, this is the hardest part of faith: letting God change us and move us and challenge us and push us to transformation and to the transformation of the world.