The other day we were all outside enjoying the sunshine, and my daughter found the first dandelions of the year. She loved them! She showed them to me and her dad and her sisters. She rubbed them along her cheek and exclaimed about how beautiful and soft they were! She was overjoyed when I told her that she could pick any dandelions she wanted, whenever she saw them.
Later, the sweet older lady from down the street dropped by to chat. When my daughter pulled the beloved crushed dandelions out of her pocket to show off her treasures, “Amma” told her that those flowers are yucky weeds. Ms Action’s face changed, she looked at the flowers in her hand puzzled.
I interjected, hoping to change the pattern of conversation “They are pretty though, and you can pick them whenever you want to!” Ms Action looked hopeful.
“Yes.” Said “Amma”. “You can come over and pick all the ones in my yard and throw them in the garbage!”
The conversation changed after that, but the damage was done. My 4 year old held the flowers for a few more moments, but the magic was gone. She dropped them on the ground reluctantly.
Or what if we look at it another way? This kind of thought pattern is very alive in religious circles as well, and the older lady friend of mine was technically correct. Dandelions are weeds. But does that mean that no one can appreciate their beauty? Is there no positive side to dandelions? Nothing to be redeemed or appreciated?
When faced with what we see as spiritual weeds in someone’s life, is our only option to intuit eternal fires that “burn away the chaff”? Is it our religious God-given “duty” to (at the very least) “encourage” them to throw it in the garbage?
I think this is the point of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. The Pharisee looks around his garden and thanks God that his crop is looking great. He compares his garden to his neighbour’s and says to himself “I’m so glad that I am a better gardener than that guy. My soil is rich, not like his hard clay. My plants are productive and numerous, nothing like those measly excuses for plants. My plot never looks overgrown like his does. I’m so glad I am a diligent hardworking gardener.”
And he has no idea that his neighbour the Publican hardly had enough money for seeds, much less fertilizer. He doesn’t know that his neighbour has health challenges and chronic pain that have kept him from weeding consistently. In contrast, the Publican looks around his garden, (never bothering to compare to anyone else’s) is thankful for what he has, and has hopes for improvement. He thanks God, and asks for mercy in the face of the unknown.