This morning, I tackled the weeds in the Labyrinth at our cottage. The weeds seem to be taking over this year and every time I turn my back there are more of them. You have to wonder why Mother Nature makes weeds such hardy plants that seem to thrive in even the harshest conditions? In any case, I rather enjoy whacking them with my whipper snipper – it is satisfying work.
That experience brought to mind a parable of the wheat and the weeds in the Gospel of Matthew which can be found here if you want to refresh your memory, https://bible.oremus.org/?ql=527923442.
In the parable, Jesus tells of a field which has been sown with good seeds – wheat. In the night, these things seem to often happen at night, the enemy comes and sows weeds among the wheat. The owner of the field – the master – decides to not have the weeds pulled up by his ‘slaves’. I wonder how many gardeners would like to have someone to do the weeds pulling? In any case, he declines the suggestion of the slave to pull the weeds because the wheat might also be pulled up in the process. Now, I can certainly relate to that because Lorna does not trust me to weed her garden because I would most likely pull up some of the good plants as well. Sometimes ignorance is bliss or at least a good excuse to avoid things.
So, what do we make of the parable about not pulling up the weeds because some good plants will be pulled with them? This could make a radical approach to gardening. However, I don’t think that was what Jesus had in mind – at least not literally. A parable by its nature, wants to surprize and encourage the listener or reader to approach a situation in a fresh way. Let’s consider the wheat and weeds as an aspect of ourselves, after all, Jesus was concerned about the souls of the people he came into contact with. If the weeds are aspects of ourselves that we don’t like or those things in us that are not acceptable, the natural reaction is to pull them up and get rid of them. As with weeds, however, every gardener knows they aren’t really gone – they will return and they seem to thrive under every and any condition.
The human equivalent of trying to pull up the weeds – unwanted aspects of ourselves, will not get rid of them. Those flaws and faults we know are in us will not be gone if we try and pull them up. This is actually trying to deny them and push them out of conscious awareness. So, what is the alternative? What does it mean to let them grow along with the wheat? Well, it means that we have to stop striving for perfection. I have struggled with the idea of trying to be perfect. Christians have been told implicitly and explicitly that we are to be perfect - it says so in the bible in the Gospel of Matthew (5: 48). This is traditionally translated as ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’. However, an alternate translation is ‘Be all-embracing, as your heavenly Father is all-embracing.”
When we strive for perfection, any imperfection is unacceptable and therefore something that we have to deny in ourselves. We have to attempt to pull up the weeds and get rid of them. We have to acknowledge them and realize they are part of us and once we do that, we can realize that God knows us better than we know ourselves and despite this God loves us. Does that mean that we just accept our faults and whatever they are we say its okay and let it rip? No, we need to acknowledge our faults and weaknesses and learn to love ourselves and to love our neighbours. Richard Rohr address just this point:
To accept this teaching doesn’t mean we can say, “It’s okay to be selfish, violent, and evil.” It simply means that we have some realism about ourselves and each other. We have to name the weed as a weed. We can’t just pretend it’s all wheat, all good, because it isn’t. We’re not perfect. Our countries are not perfect. The Church is not perfect. The project of learning how to love—which is our only life project—is quite simply learning to accept this.
Be blessed on your journey to acknowledge the weeds in yourself and others.