wildflowers and weeds

Wildflowers & Weeds: A Reflection on Spiritual Gardening

The spiritual seed catalog describes abundant, desirable fruit and pesky, unwanted seeds. How can we ensure a good harvest when our "green thumbs" are lacking?

A gardening genius originally owned our home and skillfully designed the flowerbeds to look lovely from spring till snowfall. Vibrant with bright colors and an appealing design, my favorite corner flourished with raspberries and bleeding hearts that constantly threatened to overtake the irises and lilies. Sadly, that once-lush, artful plot is no more.  

For reasons known only to him, God chose not to bestow the gift of gardening on me. Cultivating the earth, sowing seeds, and producing a harvest remain unsolved mysteries to me—and not for want of trying! For the first few years we lived at this place, I gave it my all; scouring Google, talking to neighbors, and working hard to preserve the beauty of our yard. But one summer, as I knelt in the dirt with sweat streaming down my neck and a ferocious army of mosquitoes plundering the life out of me, I surveyed the pitiful results of my labor and tossed my trowel aside. I gave up. 

My family agreed to help me attempt a different kind of garden—one we believed could thrive without expertise. An easy garden, we thought. We yanked out the raspberries and the bleeding hearts, dug up the top layer of dirt, added fresh soil, and sprinkled a cheap, gimmicky packet of wildflower seeds over the whole patch. After retiring our tools to the shed for the year, we idly anticipated a glorious kaleidoscope of effortless blooms. 

A kaleidoscope appeared all right, but it was far from glorious. Instead, as the sun and rain performed their duties like clockwork while we lounged on the patio, our garden became a hideous collection of weeds. Not a single wildflower emerged.

Constant Gardening

What kind of garden are you planting right now? Whether intentional or not, we’re continually gardening. We sow seeds in our relationships when we fight and when we make friends, when we tune out our kids to scroll Instagram and when we crouch to eye level to listen to their stories, when we neglect or care for our homes, when we attend church or stay home, when we sleep in and when we get up early to exercise. 

In everything we do, we sow seeds. The question is: What kind of seeds are we sowing? What kind of crop do we want to harvest? Galatians 6:7–10 warns us that we will harvest what we plant. If we sow to our flesh, living only to satisfy our own sinful nature, we will harvest decay and death. “But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit” (v.8 NLT).  

A Spiritual Seed Catalog 

Planting a “fleshly” crop looks like “sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these” (Galatians 5:19–20 CSB and NLT). In contrast, when we sow seeds of the Holy Spirit, the fruitful harvest includes things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23 ESV).

It’s tempting to gloss over these lists because they’re familiar to us. We may see the first few sins and determine they don’t apply to us, so we skim the rest, assuming we already know about them. The fruit of the Spirit is such that we all aspire to, yet attentive consideration of this fruit can bring uncomfortable conviction. But I urge you to take another look at both lists. 

In the catalog of fleshly seeds, we see idolatry, for example. It’s a seed most of us plant—whether we realize it or not—when we elevate anything to higher importance than God. I doubt any human is innocent of planting this seed. Strife, selfish ambition, and envy are also common temptations. And let’s not neglect the last phrase—“and other sins like these”. In other words, this list is not comprehensive. 

A closer look at the seeds of the Spirit can discourage us too. We want to bear this fruit, but sometimes it seems we don’t have a spiritual green thumb capable of sowing better seeds. We try and fail at planting this fruitful garden, so we tire of the intention and effort required, resigning ourselves to our fate as failed spiritual gardeners.

The “Secret” of Successful Spiritual Gardening

Like the dollar store wildflower seeds I haphazardly sprinkled over our flower bed, seeds of the flesh seem easier to sow than the diligence and effort of sowing seeds of the Spirit. When we’re weary of the weeding, tilling, and watering, when we’re tempted to throw in the trowel and give in to our fleshly desires, the promise in 2 Corinthians 9:10 is the key to persevering in faith, anticipating a garden of glory—”He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (ESV). 

It is God who supplies what we need to sow the seeds for a righteous harvest. He produces the harvest while we sow the seed. Yes, we often fail, but the Master Gardener never gives up on us, gently teaching and strengthening us. As we submit to and trust him, he lovingly weeds the soil of our hearts, removing sin and cultivating an ideal environment for a garden of righteousness. So “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 ESV).

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4 Responses

  1. Jana,
    This reminded me of the time I did the same – sprinkled a whole bag of wildflower seeds in a raised bed next to the garage. I got many beautiful wildflowers, but also a TON of weeds. 🙁 I at first tried to keep the weeds pulled, but then I remembered Jesus’ story in Matthew 13 about the wheat and the tares. I couldn’t tell which ones were weeds and which ones would be wildflowers! Gardening provides so many great visual lessons that tie into Scripture. Thanks for sharing yours! 🙂

    1. Well, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who experienced this! I totally agree with you—gardening provides plenty of spiritual insights and applications! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Cheryl!

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