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Today, we welcome guest blogger, April Fiet. Thanks, April!
“Momma, I picked some of your favorite flowers for you!” my five-year-old called out to me from across the yard.
“Thank you!” I said, with every attempt to sound sincere.
She picked them for me because they are my favorite color – purple. She knows I love flowers. But what she handed me was a fist full of Creeping Charlie, a highly invasive plant that, though beautiful, is a bit of a bully. It is hearty and springs back up despite ruthless attempts to weed it out. It comes up in my garden, in my yard, and even sprouts up in the decorative rocks between my house and the church.
If I didn’t know how persistent and invasive Creeping Charlie was, I would think it was beautiful and delicate. After all, it’s a relative of mint and looks similar to ivy. But, I’ve watched it invade my strawberry patch (not that my strawberries haven’t invaded other plants on their own), wind around my asparagus, and come back year after year in my garden despite active attempts to remove it. But, that hand-picked, scrappy bouquet of Creeping Charlie was beautiful, and it came straight from my daughter’s heart.
The interesting thing about Creeping Charlie is that it was most likely purposefully brought to the United States (and several other continents) by travelers and explorers. The leaves were thought to have important medicinal properties, and the heartiness of the plant was a gift to people who relied on it for nutrition. Creeping Charlie was advertised as a beautiful, hearty ground cover that could withstand harsh conditions, and could be easily spread and transplanted.
Far from being desirable today, many gardeners view it as a nuisance. Countless articles have been written on ways to effectively get rid of the plant with square roots and a miraculous ability to grow back from just a tiny remnant of root. I grumble a little every time I see the scalloped leaves and purple flowers creeping their way across my garden.
In the hands of my daughter, the purple flowers are beautiful. In my garden, they are a pest – even if a pest with a history. Beautiful in the right place, and a frustration in the wrong one.
I wonder if the practices and disciplines of our spiritual lives are sometimes the same way – beautiful in one place, and destructive in another. The author of Ecclesiastes gets at this in the well-known passage in chapter 3: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Some things just happen to us outside of our control – birth and death, for example. But many more things require discernment, discipline, wisdom, and care.
In some seasons of life, our spiritual lives might be enriched by reading lots of books about God, theology, and Scripture. In other seasons of life, piling on more reading might only be adding to the frenetic busyness that is depleting what little we’ve got left. In some seasons, intentional discernment might be key, whereas in other seasons of life, repeated attempts at discernment can serve as a way to avoid being faithful where God has placed us. Sometimes our most habitual practices are the things we simply default to because the roots are so deep, but the habits and practices are not healthy or helpful for us at that particular stage of life.
Beautiful in one place, and destructive in another.
So, we have to get down and get our hands dirty. We have to look at what we’re doing and why. But, we also trust that even when our tangled, deep roots bring forth Creeping Charlie spirituality, God can still make it into something beautiful.
April Fiet is a mom of two, school-age kids, and a co-pastor of Dumont Reformed Church in Dumont, Iowa, alongside her husband Jeff.