Cultivate Your Soul

“What a person plants, he will harvest.” Galatians 6:7 msg

I sat down to colour one evening at the invitation of my young daughter. To be honest, I wasn’t always great at saying yes to these requests but I was tired, and the thought of unwinding with a marker in my hand was a welcoming idea. The large paper loomed in front of me and I was faced with the dilemma of what to draw.  My artistic skills were mildly beyond those of the little one sitting next to me. How would I fill this space? I tended towards simple shapes, and easily identifiable symbols. But then, almost as if it was my intended purpose all along, I started to draw a garden. A few different types of flowers…that resembles a daisy right? A tulip here…a rose there – it was beautiful in the eyes of my 6 year old.

I looked down at this garden in front of me and began to label each unique flower…joy, hope, peace, patience, love…the Fruits of the Spirit springing up right in front of me. But as quickly as I wrote the words, I wondered – why don’t I have these fruits? Why do they seem so impossible, so unattainable?

The answer was as simple as the garden on my page. “Because you are planting the wrong things.”

Instead of peace I was planting seeds of anxiety.

Instead of joy I was planting seeds of discontentment.

Instead of love I was planting seeds of bitterness.

Instead of faith I was planting seeds of fear.

If I wanted to experience the Fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22 I would have to change the seeds I was sowing – but first I had some weeding to do.

Where had I allowed weeds of bitterness, anger, jealousy, un-forgiveness, and discontentment to grow? How could I begin to uproot these weeds and plant what I actually wanted to thrive in the garden of my heart?

The tricky thing for me when it comes to weeding is that I am not a very experienced gardener. I often have a hard time identifying the difference between a weed and a flower. I need help not only in the removal process but simply in knowing what to remove. And if you are a novice gardener like myself, rest assured, when it comes to identifying those pesky weeds in the soil of our heart the Holy Spirit is the one who ultimately identifies what is going on. We can take deep comfort in knowing that we have a Gardener who knows us even better than we know ourselves. “Lord, you know everything there is to know about me. You perceive every movement of my heart and soul, and you understand my every thought before it even enters my mind.” Psalm 139:1-2 TPT

So I began to sit with the Gardener of my soil (soul) and He would carefully and tenderly point out to me each weed, one by one. In many ways the process was straightforward, we would meet and He would highlight what needed to be removed. Then I simply had to release them to Him to take care of the heavy lifting.

But sometimes it was difficult. A weed had been hiding…or a weed was very deeply rooted…or even sometimes there was a weed I didn’t want to let go of. Especially when it had been there for a long time and was part of the garden I knew so well. I sometimes liked the look and feel of a weed and I worried that uprooting it would be painful. And I’m not going to lie, often uprooting those weeds did hurt a bit. But as each weed was revealed and uprooted, my garden began to look healthier, it felt freer, cleaner, and more alive. It was so ready to be planted with each of the good things I so desired to have in my life – more joy, more peace, more hope, more love. I had tried to plant these before but so often they had been choked out by those pesky weeds. Not this time. This time there was plenty of room in the garden for these good things. The things I actually wanted to thrive in my life.

Occasionally I would notice a weed had begun to grow again. How did that pesky thing get there? I thought I took care of all of the weeds! Much like the tiny garden in front of my house, despite weeding as thoroughly as possible, there is always upkeep and maintenance. Either a weed slipped through the cracks and wasn’t dealt with, or it was lying dormant waiting for the right conditions to be present before sprouting. More often though it was because I didn’t get to the root of the weed in the first place and simply pulled out the flower on the top. When I don’t remove the weed at the root it always comes back.

And this is where weeding really gets difficult. Picking the top off a weed is easy. But uprooting it takes more care. You really have to dig deep to get to the root. And in my own life, often the issues I would try and address were merely a symptom of a deeper problem. I could try and deal with the anxiety I was experiencing, but until I addressed the root of fear that was causing that anxiety, it would continue to return.

I also had to take a closer look at how the weeds were being planted. Some were planted by traumatic events, negative words spoken over me, or the lies of the enemy. Though I wasn’t the one planting these particular weeds I often cultivated them by partnering with my hurt and emotion instead of the truth of the Gardener.

I was shocked to realize that I was the one who had planted and cultivated certain weeds.

When I read sensational news articles, I was planting seeds of fear and anxiety.

When I mindlessly scrolled social media, I was planting seeds of jealousy and discontentment.

When I complained, I planted seeds of self-pity that had the potential to cultivate depression.

The fruit of these actions may not have appeared right away, but I was responsible for a lot of what was being planted in my soul. I had not done a great job of guarding the soil of my heart. “So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 TPT

The incredible thing about dealing with the weeds in the soil of our heart is that a bi-product of weed removal is the increased growth of what we actually want to bloom. There is a cause and effect that happens when we remove bitterness, anger, unforgiveness and jealousy. Joy begins to grow. Peace begins to thrive. Love is no longer limited.

And what would it look like to intentionally plant seeds of joy? Often it meant spending time connecting with my kids, putting down my phone, taking my own life and tasks a little less seriously and just being present with them. But sometimes it wasn’t that simple. I didn’t always see the fruit of what I was planting right away. Like my garden outside, it takes time for things to grow. And when a seed is planted it actually dies. It is a dead thing that when planted and cultivated becomes a living thing.

For some of the fruit in my life to grow it meant other things needed to die.

My unreasonable expectations had to die to experience joy.

My selfishness had to die to experience love.

My need for control had to die to experience peace.

And ultimately planting what I want to grow is hinged on spending time with the Gardener. He knows just what needs to be planted and when. Sometimes I want to rush the process. I am eager for the fruit and in doing so I often look to see what the world offers instead and I end up with a garden full of weeds when the intention was a bounty of flowers.

The garden of my dreams is possible. Those Fruits of the Spirit that I thought were so unattainable are not in fact out of reach.

If I want to have a thriving life – weeding will be an ongoing event in the garden of my soul. I am thankful that I know such a gentle Gardener. He is careful to not point out all of my weeds at once so as to not overwhelm me. And He never has me garden alone, He is always there to do the heavy lifting. It is a team effort. He points out the weed, and together we uproot it.

Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and “learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 msg

Weeding never felt so good 🙂

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