This weekend I spent a lot of time pulling weeds at my mom’s house. She has five large flower beds and a Japanese garden (which is a bunch of rocks and weird looking trees…well, it would be if you could see through the weeds…right now it is solid wall of weeds taller than my oldest child).
As a side note…I have no idea what makes it Japanese or a garden. There isn’t any food growing there as the word “garden” would signify; and the plants aren’t from Japan. It’s very confusing. Hence forth it shall be know as the Weeds HQ.
Any-who…she had taken good care of the flower beds in the back of the house; but the flower beds in the front and on the side of the house had not been touched for two years (so she claimed…I suspect at least four).
As I’m sure you are right now imagining, these were no longer flower beds. They were weed gardens (and yes, I can say garden because I found wild strawberries and small onion looking things growing amongst the weeds). Wendy, the kids, Mom, and I spent three and a half hours on Sunday and another two and a half hours on Monday hacking, sawing, digging up, spraying, cussing, and openly declaring war on the weeds in one and a half of the flower beds. We didn’t even think of entering Weed HQ for fear that we would lose and not return to tell the tale.
While battling with these brave, persistent, evil plants I came to respect them and learned some valuable lessons about life and church that I would like to share.
1. Small weeds with multiple interconnected roots are much more powerful than huge weeds with a single root.
I thought taking down the big weeds would be the hardest part. Some of them had gotten so large they had developed a kind of bark. But the bigger they were, the easier they were to pull out. All it took was some digging and a good yank. The killers that drove us mad were the small thistles with sharp thrones that had connected roots. If I pulled on them the tops simply came off leaving the roots to regrow. Trying to dig them out was frustrating. While it looked like there was 150 different plants, they were actually all one organism. Each was connected to the five surrounding it.
Believe it or not, I was encouraged by this. It is what we hope the church in Baltimore will become some day. When you look at it from the outside it looks like a bunch of different groups; but underneath they are all connected, working together, impossible to root out. I think this is what a movement looks like.
2. Being little and fearless can be an advantage.
There were two bushes planted against the front wall of mom’s house that were being choked out by weed-vine-things. The vines had tangled themselves all throughout the branches. I wanted to save the bushes, but I was stumped on how to proceed. I pulled out a ton of the vines, but I couldn’t get to the roots which were coming from under the bushes next to the house. Also, there were a lot of vines on the interior of the bush that I just simply didn’t want to go after. It looked scratchy.
As I stood there and pondered the situation Jackson, my six year old, came up beside me and asked, “What’s wrong Daddy?” I explained that I couldn’t get to the roots and didn’t know what to do to save the bush. Before I could do anything Jackson sprang into action. He crawled under one of the bushes and began yanking the vines from the ground. Then he looked up and started tearing vines off of branches from inside the bush. As he passed me small handfuls of broken vines he would ask professional adult sounding questions like, “Dad, can you pass me a small shovel please?” or “Dad, I need you to go get me some clippers?” or “Wow Dad. These are tough ones. Its good I’m so strong.”
At one point he even called Logan (the two year old) in to help explaining, “Daddy can’t do this part. We have to do it for him.” Logan nodded in determined approval.
A note to Thingy members or others redefining “church” through small communities. Take advantage of your small size. Don’t be afraid. You have nothing to lose. If there are weeds that need to be pulled, upset the status quo and yank them out. Bad theology, misunderstandings of “church,” empty rituals, pointless rules…don’t be afraid. Take’m down. Institutions are clunky and always in danger of falling apart. You on the other hand are small and agile. Use it to your advantage. Get to working fixing what is broken.
That is enough for now. I have three more lessons learned but I will post them later so this doesn’t get to long.