Six months into his retirement, my husband Steve pants from pain as he hobbles from one room to the next with the aid of a crutch. A bulging disc in his lower
back has been clamoring for Steve’s attention, interrupting his new life as a retiree — and my life as his spouse!
All of the chores Steve previously handled (too many to count) are being redistributed to me and our younger son Patrick, who is on summer break from college. One of the dreaded duties I’ve inherited is weeding the garden. Dreaded because the garden should have been weeded weeks ago!
On Father’s Day, while Steve rested, I put on an old T-shirt, a pair of orange flannel pants (think jail uniform), grabbed a trowel from the garage and walked into the jungle, aka, garden. Surveying the lush greenery, I wondered: which are weeds and which are vegetables? Walking back into the house, I called to Steve: “Are the plants with sort of shiny, oval leaves vegetables or weeds?” “They’re weeds,” he replied. Did I mention that it was around 90 degrees on Father’s Day and that those “plants” covered about three-quarters of our garden?
I got down on hands and knees and began extricating weeds, most of which intertwined the carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, strawberries, peppers and tomatoes. As the heat prickled my arms, I thought about the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). “… While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat and went off. …” Is that what happened to our garden?” I wondered humorously.
The slaves of the householder asked him what to do about the weeds. “‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. …’” Scooping up a pile of weeds to place near our ditch, I noticed a hairy top of a tiny orange carrot plant and felt bad. I’d uprooted the “wheat” along with the weeds. But my mistake made me appreciate the fact that I am human and that life in the garden is messy.
OK, I’m mixing metaphors and parables … but it was too easy to resist as I toiled in the soil of God’s creation. The parable’s householder instructed the slaves about the weeds, “Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat in my barn.’”
I know Jesus wasn’t teaching his disciples about gardening. His parable was an allegory about good and evil and what awaits the righteous in the kingdom of God. Like all people of faith, I strive to be the good seed, the wheat that will be gathered in the barn, in God’s home.
Weeding is not my idea of fun, but the garden is Steve’s project and right now he needs me to tend it for him. In 31 years of marriage, I’ve never seen my husband so physically weak. It’s a little disconcerting. It gives me a bigger view of the garden we call married life and what’s necessary to cultivate it.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)