Until we put our house up for sale last year, I can’t say that dandelions ever bothered me very much.
So they were weeds. So others didn’t like them. So what?
I barely noticed them. When the grass got cut, the dandelions got chopped down, too, and that seemed like enough.
When I wanted someone to buy our house, though, I suddenly felt motivated to keep my yard weed-free.
That’s when the war started. and I’ve brought the battle from the old house to the new, only this time I refuse to give up any territory.
These dandelions have overrun yards all over my new neighborhood, but not my yard. Not this time.
I pop those dandelions out by the root every time I take a walk or get the mail or just head out the door to the minivan.
But while I’m warring against the dandelions, I’m also choosing to fight for something else.
The whole time I’m digging out weeds, I’m cultivating tulips, watching over them like a mom does a newborn baby. I marvel at every single hint of growth. I point out the first sprouts of green to my kids, and I wait expectantly for the first blooms to appear.
In my old house, I planted tulips nearly every fall because I love their vibrant colors. They didn’t grow, though. In the 13 years we lived in that house, I probably only had tulips bloom two of those years.
They were eaten. That’s why. Apparently tulip bulbs are a high-class delicacy to voles, who tunneled all through the yard and snacked on my plants through the winter.
I’m determined, though–determined to keep the dandelions out and determined to keep the tulips in. So I clicked my way through Google searches to find some tulip- growing remedies. Then I headed out to the garden with a bag of crushed oyster shells and containers of garlic powder and chili powder. I mixed that fragrant little concoction up and dumped it into the holes before I dropped the tulip bulbs in the soil.
The garden smelled like garlic for at least a week.
Now, it’s spring. The tulips are about to bloom and I finally see the results of all that effort.
I have fought against and I have fought for.
Maybe that’s what I need to know spiritually, too. That battling against is fine and well and good, but it’s incomplete if we aren’t also cultivating what is beautiful and right and enduring in its place.
16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there is disorder and every evil practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without pretense.18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who cultivate peace (James 3:16-18 CSB).
We dig out envy, pride, and evil. We grow peace, gentleness, and mercy.
Paul told the Galatians:
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy,outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar (Galatians 5:19-21 CSB).
But that’s not the end. It’s not enough to be rid of the flesh or pull out the sin; we need the Spirit to do a new work within us, and the fruit of the Spirit is:
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 CSB).
I can deal with sin, take it seriously, talk about sin, focus on sin, try to conquer sin, determine not to sin, read about sin, listen to preachers preach about sin, recognize my sin, and constantly declare that I’m a sinner.
But I’m still missing out. James moves past that. Paul moves past that.
It’s fruitfulness they describe and it’s fruitfulness I really want. I want more than a yard without dandelions. I want the beauty of the tulips.
And that doesn’t happen if I’m focused on myself, my own efforts, my own failures. Fruitfulness requires abiding in Christ, lifting my eyes from my self to my Savior.
That’s when my life begins to bear fruit, His supernatural peace, not just the absence of worry, but a heart that loves peace and pursues peace with others.
That’s when He helps me to love even when it’s hard. That’s when He grows gentleness, mercy, kindness, and goodness within me. That’s when I have an abiding joy that isn’t determined by circumstances. This is the Spirit’s work.
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4-5 NIV).