The Garden of the Soul
by Nicky Verna, M.A
Looking out upon my yard fills me with many emotions—wonder, gratitude, and awe for God's creations. However, there is an area of my yard that I have been purposefully avoiding for several summers, which is the dreaded weed patch! This area seems to have a mind of its own. It gets weeded, and then they appear to regrow overnight, which causes angst in me whenever I even think of tackling the task, especially after these rainy few months, the weeds have taken over! After much prayer and procrastination, I decided to take on the undergrowth's challenge on a recent sunny day. I donned my rubber boots, old jeans, and thick gloves and headed out to my garden jungle.
As I made headway amidst this dense patch of weeds, I began to pray. I pray for those I love, asking God to protect and keep them; I pray for those I do not love as I ought, asking God to protect them, as well, and to soften my heart in its areas of hardness; I pray for our country and the state that the world is in and as I begin to see more and more clarity in the garden, I also begin to see how God has placed me in this garden for a particular purpose. I am not just here to weed out the unwanted but also to be open to the beautiful awareness this garden has in my soul. Just as I have allowed weeds to take over this area of my garden, I realize that I have also allowed the continuance of certain sins to take over some areas of my soul. When left unattended, the weeds become more fully rooted in their place and eventually choke the good plants nearby. Like my weedy garden, this is what I see when I permit the evil of sin to take seed in my life. I allow the weeds of sin to root themselves, and when left unattended, I know they will begin to take over the good, fruitful, and beautiful areas of my life. While uncovering the top layer of the weeds, I see a root system thriving below the surface with anchored roots in preparation for whenever I reach to tug them out. This beautiful analogy brings me to the Scripture passages found in the book of John, where he calls Jesus the "Gardener" (Jn 20:15) and Jesus, Himself, proclaims "I am the true vine and My Father is the gardener" (Jn 15:1).
We began life in the Garden, where all things are created in perfect harmony with one another. After the fall, our world became that of the "father of lies," and our fallen nature became plagued by concupiscence and the consequences of our sins. Yet, because we are witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we have the blessing of knowing the end of the story. We know that death does not have the final say and that we live in the hope that is Christ! So, as I continue to dig deeply into the dirt of my garden, I uproot the awareness of my sins and see the light that is Christ. I see my garden alleviated of the creeping weeds, just as my soul's garden is freed from the confiscation of sin.
And while I know full well that those weeds will come back, just as I know full well that the temptation to sin will also return, I have complete confidence in the One Who created me, knowing that I can overcome whatever the world throws at me as long as I stay close to Christ and remain vigilant in my call of holiness. I know this can only be done by staying close to Christ in the Eucharist, participating in the Mass, praying, and offering sacrifices in reparation for my sins and the world's sins. One way I can provide such sacrifices is by staying in my garden and tending to the "weeds" that the world throws my way. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13) because I know Christ "makes all things new" (Rev 21:5), and if I do not remain attached to the vine, I can produce no fruit. The garden is a beautiful place to reside, and I intend to keep my weeds under control!