My mission was simple: Kill the weeds growing in the cracks of our concrete walkway. Before it was all said and done, I would definitely succeed at doing that. I just didn’t anticipate the damage I was going to do to the grass.
My weed killing mission went awry the moment I purchased Roundup Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate Plus. Based on the reviews, any weed that Roundup touched would promptly whither; but I ignored the fact that it’s called “weed and grass killer.”
The instructions warned against spraying Roundup if there was a breeze, which I read to mean that I could do it as long as there was only a very slight breeze. I just needed to spray really closely to the concrete. And so I did — quite copiously.
The next afternoon, I looked at the front yard and noticed that a significant swath of grass close to the walkway looked yellowish. By the next morning, it was completely dead. Apparently, the breeze had been stronger than I realized.
Our loveliest grass was in the backyard where, thankfully, I hadn’t sprayed any of the Roundup. Yet, over the next couple of days, I noticed that there were splotches of dying grass in a line across the backyard. It started at the fence gate and ran all the way to the shed. The splotches looked kind of like … footprints.
Then it hit me: I had gotten Roundup on the bottom of my shoes and traipsed across the backyard, leaving a trail of poisoned grass in my wake.
I hoped that the grass would grow back in the coming days but that would not be the case. To my dismay, the toxic, barren soil remained throughout the summer and stayed there during the winter, reminding me of my foolish landscaping experiment. I wondered if the grass would ever come back.
When spring came, I cast off my normally lackadaisical attitude toward lawn care and went about trying to undo the damage. I got down in the grass, tilled the soil of each footprint, mixed in new soil with grass seeds, fertilized and diligently watered the yard, hoping it would make a difference.
To my relief, in very little time, the green shoots began peeking out of the ground, erasing the old brown shoe prints and eventually replacing them with verdant grass. And as the grass grew, it was telling a story of hope, one about your heart and mine.
Sin leaves tracks on our hearts — dead, hard, soil that looks and feels permanent. There’s a trail of gossip, grudge-holding, lust, envy, prideful toxicity that we all justify in the moment. And when we look back at what we we’ve done (and what’s been done to us by others) shame sets in. Sin is always committed with a certain level of carelessness.
Our hearts need gardening. They need someone to come in and treat the damage — to break up the old soil and replace it with new dirt. Seeds must be planted, the ground needs to be refertilized and watered. There is only one person who can provide the care that will restore the gardens of our hearts: Father God.
In an essay entitled “God as Gardener,” Jill Carratini reflects on Genesis 2:8-9, which says: “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” Carratini writes:
[H]ere is one of the first passages in the Bible where we are introduced to who God is … a gardener, a nurturer of all life, protector and planter, a designer, keeper, and pruner concerned with life’s flourishing. My own experiences with gardening bring to mind an entirely different set of emotions and dispositions than I typically consider God as having: delight in dirty hands, my own investment into the life I’ve planted, the thrill of fruit, the gentle attention to life, the compilation and cooperation with so many different factors—wind and rain, sun and predators—and the pleasure of simply being near it all.
God loves to garden our hearts and He doesn’t shrink away from tending to the patches of toxic soil that mar our beauty. He delights in dirty hands, lowering Himself to the ground, studying the soil, taking joy in seeing new life emerge from what would seem like permanent damage. He remains curious about our growth even though He already knows what each season of our life will look like.
We can trust that the Lord who tends to us with such gentle curiosity will never abandon us. He’s the one who described Himself as “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). This gentle, lowly Gardener cares for every blade of grass in the imperfect terrain of our hearts. No matter how much damage has been done to us or by us, He is always there, ready to break up the soil, enrich it, plant new seed, and rejoice in our growth.
Check out my book, “Confessions of a Happily Married Man,” which tells the story of how God has worked in the ordinary (and extraordinary) of my marriage — and how you can see the ways He’s working in yours too.