Last spring, my husband and I invested in a new backyard. Once a meadow of unruly weeds and improperly pruned trees, our yard was transformed into our personal paradise. It has brought joy to our family and increased our living space. During the summer and fall I would pray outside in the cool shade of the morning, and my husband and I would regularly catch up over a drink while the hummingbirds fed off the flowers at dusk.
This past year has been the first that I’ve been diligent and consistent in my care for my yard. I’ve kept on top of my garden’s weeds—something I never did regularly before our yard’s transformation.
St. Therese and Gardening
St. Therese of Lisieux often attached garden imagery to her spiritual journey. To stay motivated while tending my garden, I decided to attach a spiritual task to my weeding. I considered every weed I pulled a spiritual weed that I was yanking from the garden of my soul. These weeds represented sins, vices, nagging temptations, and bad habits, as well as the insidious thoughts that would plague my mind when I was anxious, tired, or insecure.
Since gardening is a new practice for me, what might seem obvious to green-thumbs has been revelatory for me, particularly during this last season of Advent.
Getting to the Roots
First, there will never be a weed-less garden where there is sunlight, water, and soil. The only way to manage is to devote regular care to the earth.
Weeding should be done slowly, gently, and intentionally. If I just grabbed weeds and yanked willy-nilly, I only got the tops; beneath the soil, the roots remained, and the weeds eventually returned. Instead, I had to firmly grasp the weed, get my fingers deep into the soil, and slowly pull to make sure the root came up as well.
One surprise I encountered while weeding was that while a swath of ground looked to be covered with weeds, when I sifted my hands through the mess, it was not many weeds I needed to pull, but only one. By finding the source of the spread of weeds and yanking that one root out, I cleared out a wide area of the soil.
Among the Flowers
However, my favorite discovery about weeding was that by getting on my knees and into the dirt, I could inhale the sweet fragrance of my flowers better. I intimately recognized how each individual plant was beautiful, fragrant, and pleasing.
My garden is filled with lavender, salvia, gardenias, roses, camellias, and Esperanza Sunrise. When I was in the thick of my garden, I couldn’t help but notice the beauty of each rose blossom and the potent, luxuriant scent of the salvia. I was close enough to lean over and sniff the white gardenia flowers, and my nostrils were blessed with the perfume. I became familiar with each plant’s leaves and the way they splayed out or crept up the back wall.
The Garden of My Soul
The correlation between my garden and my soul is not subtle, and this connection resonated with me in a unique way during this last Advent season.
Advent gave me the opportunity to clear out my spiritual garden in preparation for Christmas. But I can’t just wait for Advent every year—my soul must be consistently nurtured and cared for so that life can bloom year-round.
When clearing out the weeds of my soul, I need to slow down, get dirty, and take time to find the roots of my sins and vices. By hurrying through or neglecting my spiritual life, I miss the opportunity to allow God’s penetrating fingers to dig into my soul and eliminate the roots of what plague me.
When clearing out the weeds of my soul, I need to slow down, get dirty, and take time to find the roots of my sins and vices. #BISblog //Click to tweet
I need to allow the necessary time to go deeper than my surface level sins: for example, sharpness with my loved ones, gossip, overspending, or envious thoughts. Instead I must get to the root of my spiritual weeds and acknowledge that I may be insecure in my relationship and intimacy with God, may be neglecting quality prayer time, or may be nurturing my ego rather than a spirit of service or simplicity in my life.
Identifying the roots of my sinful behavior ensures I can eliminate them. And often, multiple sins in my life have the same root. Taking the time to recognize where the root and source of my spiritual weaknesses stem from can lead to a more substantial clearing of my soul.
Finally, by setting aside time to clear out my spiritual weeds, I am better able to recognize the gifts, strengths, and charisms that God has granted me. Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable to recognize that I have many traits that are beautiful in the Divine Gardener’s eyes, just as each garden has plants with unique fragrances, colors, blossoms, and leaves.
Reflecting God's Beauty
Gardens reflect God’s beauty, vitality, and fruitfulness—and I need to as well. When I allow myself the time to do the dirty work of weeding my garden, I am blessed with an up-close and intimate view of how God has graced me and made me lovely.
And once I acknowledge the fragrant blooms of my soul, I can in turn gather them into a bouquet and present them to Our Lord Jesus through loving service, especially during the Christmas season. As the Magi prepared and journeyed to bring their gifts before the Christ Child, so can I present my bouquet at the base of the manger.
What spiritual weeding have you been able to do this Advent and Christmas season? What beautiful qualities about yourself have you discovered in the process that can be made into a beautiful gift before the manger?
Weeding the Garden of My Soul #BISblog //Click to tweet
Jacqueline Hollcraft lives in central California with her husband and seven vibrant children. She is a lecturer at California State University Stanislaus, and she is a co-editor and contributor for The Daughters of Mary Blog. In her free time, she enjoys serving with her husband in their parish’s hospital ministry, hiking (especially in Yosemite), craft beer, and reading or watching murder mysteries.