Flower Bed and Weeds
As I continue my work of finding multiple parallels between church and garden, I find myself frequently returning to the issue of short cuts.
The current picture: my long-suffering husband has built for me a massive number of flower and vegetable beds at the parsonage where we live as he is aware that my soul stays cleaner and healthier when my hands stay dirty and soil-stained.
The two of us have a general division of duties for yard and garden: he does the vast majority of the big heavy work—building the beds, hauling in the dirt, tilling as necessary, coming up with innovative and affordable watering systems, mowing and edging. I purchase plants and seeds, put them in the ground, and lovingly tend them, and that includes hand weeding this large number of planting areas.
Now, I was gone for nine weeks, had major surgery two weeks before that, and was in the midst of Lent and Easter before that. The result of months of neglect in the fast growing and very wet spring months? The weeds have made major, huge, significant, destructive and discouraging moves into those formerly weed free beds.
Oh my. Goodness gracious. Yikes. What a mess.
The Short Cut Solution
After about 50 hours of hard labor in the last ten, hot, dry, days, I am beginning to see the return of those flower and vegetable beds to their former status, but some of the extremely invasive weeds are going to take months of diligence for me to eliminate them.
I really would love a quick solution.
But here’s why I don’t use one. This article speaks of the destruction of probably hundreds of thousands of trees by use of an herbicide (weed killer).
This herbicide, developed and marketed by DuPont, was described this way:
Imprelis, which was registered by the EPA in October and marketed to professionals treating residential and commercial lawns, golf courses and sod farms, was touted by DuPont as “an innovation that was worth the wait.”
“It is the most scientifically advanced turf herbicide in over 40 years,” the company said in a marketing release, citing more than 400 field trial protocols dating to 2006.
Professional lawn care specialists apparently embraced it with enthusiasm. After all, who doesn’t like a short cut that makes life so much easier and would increase profits?
It also proved to be particularly deadly to evergreens such as Norway spruce and white pine trees. Probably hundreds of thousands of trees have died.
Yes, lawsuits have been filed.
The short cut, marketed as most short cuts are as a way to make life easier and more pleasant and to eliminate tedious chores, left this large swath of death. Of course, the lawns and golf courses are also probably weed free, but at what cost? A mature tree is valued at thousands of dollars, and simply can’t be replaced at that same maturity. It will take years to recover from this “short cut.”
Two Common Church Short CutsSo what are two major short cuts we tend to leap upon in the life of the church?
First, the decision that “making disciples” is a short term activity and can be achieved by pushing people through a series of classes and thinking we’ll graduate spiritually rich, mature individuals. It takes years and a lot of life experience along with the careful practice of spiritual disciplines to move into deep maturity. That doesn’t mean that young, not yet fully formed (for no one is fully formed) people should not take leadership roles in church life. It does mean awareness that they’ve got a lot of growing to do, and even several years in intensive study, such as in a seminary environment, does not necessary equate to one walking in tune with God and well equipped with holy discernment.
Second, the wholesale and undiscerning implementation of ministry techniques, generally taught at expensive and highly touted seminars where “successful” church leaders share their secrets to explosive growth. Those techniques will often do what the short cut of artificial fertilizers will do: cause some very impressive short term growth. However, with out the in-depth improvement of the soil, the plants will demand heavier and heavier applications of artificial fertilizers—all of which will eventually kill the soil. Healthy soil, the kind that supports long term and sustained growth, takes a lot of time to create. Plant growth in healthy soil is often slower than those grown with artificial stimulants, but is much, much healthier and able to survive predators far better.
The Grasshoppers Cometh
While I was gone, we here in North Texas experienced the annual invasion of grasshoppers. That happens yearly, but some years are far worse, and this was a particularly bad one. I had read about the invasion before I returned home as several gardeners mentioned that their vegetables had been stripped by those voracious little critters. I expected to find almost everything gone when I arrived home.
Much to my surprise, except for one hibiscus that has always had a problem with grasshoppers (probably not enough sun), and two tomato plants, already well past their prime, nothing else seemed harmed. The critters were present in the garden, but not in huge numbers. I believe the essential health of those plants, growing in carefully cultivated soil, slowly built up over several years by frequent application of organic mulch and gentle, natural fertilization, gave them an edge over the artificially stimulated plants found in most gardens. They were alive–and they were also competing with all those weeds for moisture and nutrients.
I honestly wish there were herbicides that I could spray indiscriminately and magically erase my weed problems without causing other damage. But such a product will never exist. I also wish I could wave my magic wand, create the ideal discipleship program and systematically turn out mature Christians whose passion in life is to love God, love their neighbors, and fill the church seats and coffers. But at what cost?
Boredom or Diversity?
But even as I write such a goal, it sounds stultifying and boring to me. Who wants a mass-produced Christian when it is our very diversity that provides color, life and the possibility of touching the entire world with grace, not just those who look like me? A garden with only one plant might turn out a lot of food or offer a bundle of cut flowers for a season, but it will eventually destroy the soil. But a garden bounteous with diverse plants, various ripening/blooming times, and contrasting textures, heights and colors brings delight and life to the world. I think that is what we are supposed to be about.