Just off the upper patio behind our house is a lower patio made up of hundreds upon hundreds of small bricks. On this patio is an old table with four chairs, plus a chimenea that has about seen its last days.
And there are weeds.
I’d like to say that there were weeds, but it’s not the nature of weeds to be removed and remain so. They are persistent. They keep coming. And, as my lower patio illustrates, they find any crack, any opening, any opportunity to take root. It is about as perplexing and unbelievable as it is annoying. No amount of Round-Up will do. And no matter how tight the seams are between my bricks, they are never tight enough. In short, the weeds just simply won’t go away.
Which is why I found myself–yet again–on my hands and knees this morning tackling each and every one protruding skyward from amongst the bricks. It is a constant task; one in which I’ve come to find some perverse delight, as if it is at once cleansing of the patio and, well, cleansing for my soul, for within this task and on this patio is a parable of the spiritual life that permeates every single follower of Christ.
Or at least this one.
You see no matter how tight the seams of my life, and no matter how much I blanket my soul with spiritual Round-Up, the inner weeds keep coming. Pervasively. Determinately. Discouragingly. The lower patio of my inner-being needs constant attention. And it needs personal, direct, and intentional attention.
Some weeks ago my gals and I went on a long trip. Just before we left I applied Round-Up to the few weeds teasing me from the patio. We left, made our way to Texas and then circled back to Minnesota through Colorado, South Dakota, and North Dakota. After many days away we pulled up into our driveway and the first thing I saw was the lower patio peeking from around the back corner of the house.
Check that. It wasn’t the lower patio I saw. It was the weeds. I was aghast. They had literally taken over the patio. Every seam was filled with a thick abundance of weeds. And then it hit me. A bit of casual attention coupled with occasional effort was simply not going to suffice to keep these soil demons at bay. And the same is true with the soul demons.
Now it’s not that I need to spend 24/7 sitting in one of those ancient patio chairs of ours. That simply wouldn’t do; would reveal a profound measure of insecurity and fixation that would speak more poorly of me than the weeds. And the same is true for my soul. I don’t need to become so self-conscious that I falter in my rest before the foot of the cross. However, faithful and regular scrutiny of my lower patio would surely pay off–more than occasional but not anal. I don’t need to camp there. I just need to be watchful and available as appropriate.
One day long ago Jesus declared to a crowd that it was not what went into a man that defiled him, but what came out of him. When told that the religious elite were offended by Jesus’ radical words, He responded with this special insight: Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up (Matthew 15:13). Now Jesus was speaking of the presumuptuous leaders who just knew they had it all figured out. Indeed, Jesus went on to say, “Let them alone; they are blind guides” (v. 14). However, the statement provides a truism for the inner-being, the lower patio of the soul. If there is anything there that the Father has not placed there, then it must be removed. Diligently. With haste. With determination. Thus the regularly scrutiny–not weird obsession; but scrutiny.
Oh, and by the way: just as the weeds nestled amongst the bricks of my lower patio are better extracted having been made quite wet from the hose or rain, so too is this the case when the soul is well-conditioned by the water of the Word. It makes the plucking up of the weeds so much easier.