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15 February 2021
Pulling out the imposters that suck our souls dry
Words Danielle Strickland
To make room for new things, nature lets go of the old. But sometimes, even nature needs some help.
Is it ever hard to tell what a weed is! Just saying. The best I could figure out is that it grows really fast, bears no fruit and has no beauty. Although that’s not even always the case. My eight-year-old son brought home his school project to convince me that weeds were plants, too. I decided that he could plant a weed garden if he really felt compassion for the weeded ones, but that I wanted to help my existing garden grow. I’d start by weeding a lovely patch in my backyard. I felt a bit responsible, to tell you the truth.
So, I headed out, armed with ignorance and responsibility and bent over, tending my garden until my back was hard to straighten again. I pulled and pulled at what looked like weeds to me, and found the sweet satisfaction of pulling some out with the roots.
It did seem like a lot of work for what I assumed to be just aesthetic gains. A few days later, I realised the much deeper reason weeds need to be pulled …
The existing plants began to flourish. Without the weeds sucking the nutrients from the earth, the plants had room to take a deep breath and drink in the precious life of the soil. And it did them a world of good. It did my soul a world of good. I felt the nudging of a divine whisper with deeper truth for the garden of my life.
And so it goes, to live well means a letting go or a little pulling up before a growing or bearing or beauty. A bending before a tall, stretching straightening in the sun. The death involved in resurrection is not just for aesthetics, it turns out. It’s a deep work within. Under the surface of our lives there is soil for our souls that has enough nourishment to make us grow.
But there are things in our lives that grow fast, furiously, bear no fruit and obscure our natural beauty. They can sometimes seem like growth, but they are tricky imposters who suck up our precious soil and keep us locked, limited and hidden. They include prejudice, bitterness, jealousy, self-pity, appetite, laziness, indifference, selfishness – those are the ones I’ve come to recognise in my life’s garden.
In the hopes of improving my appearance, I sift through websites and spend half the day going to discount stores to find clothes that might just dress up my life, only to feel the energy and vitality of my day sucked dry. But then I remind myself that the outside of me is overrated, and I turn on some music, cook a decent meal and spend time with people I love … and my soul finds rest.
I’m tired and restless and reach for a sugar-coated doughnut, topped with my favourite ice cream or chocolate treat, to soothe myself. It doesn’t soothe. It adds weight – not just physically, but the weed of my appetite unlocks a deeper hunger – one that I just can’t fill. Not even with a big bowl of popcorn 30 minutes later.
Instead, I put in my earphones and turn on a podcast that leads me through 30 minutes of mindful meditation with scripture from the Psalms. I breathe deeply as instructed and take the 30 minutes to eat a different kind of food. Food for my soul. I feel satisfied. I feel presence. I grow taller. I live more deeply. I reach into the soil of life and emerge more alive.
Weeding is tricky. Identifying disguised growth lacking in depth and character is hard work. But allowing weeds to grow unfettered is dangerous to the soil. To the plants. To growth. To our lives.
So, pull them out. Identify them by their easy and fast growth that withers your soul, and pull them all out at the roots. Replace them with the things already planted in you that are stuck, hidden and in the shade.
Let the sun shine on your God-given gifts, beauty and dreams. Let things go that don’t give you life, and embrace the beauty waiting to emerge from your own soul.
Salvo Danielle Strickland is an author, communicator and justice advocate. For details see daniellestrickland.com