For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
A truth of desert life, and life in general: after the blessed benediction of rain, you will have weeds to contend with.
The earth is so parched around here that the first drop of moisture brings forth all manner of latent vegetation—from beautiful wildflowers to potent, allergen-baring stuff. After a few early March showers, the wilderness comes alive, impossibly, with green growing things.
Following these bursts of spring precipitation, you start to dread each trip to the mail box. Because you know what’s coming for you. That little white envelope with the cellophane window. It bears a short, concise note, usually typed on pink paper; the news that you’ve been fined $25 for the totally natural life that has taken root on your front lawn.
In the urban desert, ‘nature’ is subject to HOA approval. A little guy with a clipboard comes around on a golf cart once a month to make sure your yard is up to scratch. He shows no mercy in the wake of a desert downpour. It’s a slim grace period, between these lovely showers and the work of regulation.
Remember that parable about the seed that falls on rock, and how it can’t take root and grow because of the hot sun, etc? Seems like desert weeds did not get this memo. They flourish up through the landscaped gravel, the concrete pavers, the fake astro-turf, even the sizzling, cracked red clay. Call them a nuisance, call them an eyesore, but these little buggers are a dang miracle of nature.
Yeah, tell that to the HOA. If it doesn’t MATCH, it’s got to go. Still, it seems counter-intuitive to tear up that which grows in such unlikely places. If a thing has enough pluck to thrive on this soil, in this rock, in the blazing sun, doesn’t it deserve to live?
Jesus says you can move a mountain with the faith of a mustard seed. This image makes for the perfect children’s moment or hands-on Sunday school lesson. What better way to teach a child that even small people, in developing stages of faith, have the power of God at their fingertips? Put in tiny bottle, wear as necklace—life lesson managed.
Small faith matters. But another small truth of the mustard seed bears telling: mustard is a weed. An unwanted, unruly, unlovely, not-matching-the-neighbors’-paint-color of a plant. And Jesus is all about it.
In this season of Lent, it would be the perfect children’s sermon…to talk about the ugly dead weeds we pull from our yards in the spring, and say “God is the great gardener…God pulls all the weeds, all the dead and ugly things from our lives, so that we can flourish and grow.” Bottle it, sell it, life lesson it, etc. Thing is, maybe for our grown-up prayer time, we could do with a shift. Maybe, instead of praying for God to illuminate the weeds from our hearts, we need to invite that Holy Gardener to come in and plant some. Let God nurture something within us that doesn’t match the neighbor’s yard, and that cannot be contained within the fence of our frail form. Make like the Dixie Chicks and “grow something wild and unruly.” Like scrappy desert weeds, coming up through the rocks and the cracks and the lifeless void, throwing a splash of green across the crumbling wilderness.
The Kingdom of God is like Kudzu, and we are not the boss of it. Maybe what Jesus meant was: “Have faith like a mustard seed. Faith that flourishes in wild places, and finds a way to thrive in spite of the odds; faith that doesn’t care what the neighbors think, and that welcomes light from any source; faith that grows like crazy and will not be contained. Have that kind of faith, then you’d better believe, we can move mountains. Something so wild and free—you’d better believe I’m going to be a part of that.”
Maybe I’ll send this to my HOA, and see if I can avoid the fine this year. Or maybe I should suck it up and do my yard work, and just stick with the metaphor.