fence row with weedsIt was a hot afternoon July 4, 2000. I had been a homeowner for 11 days.

We bought ten and a half acres of land in the country, a mix of pasture and woods. Our house was about 175 feet from the gravel road, inside a barbed wire fence.

When I looked out our picture window toward the road, I saw weeds. Not small, easily overlooked knee-high weeds, the tender, innocent type of greenery that could be forgiven because it was pretty (I have a soft spot for the cheery faces of dandelions in the spring). I saw weeds taller than my own height of six feet: giant ragweed.

I changed to raggedy jeans and a t-shirt. After tromping to the barn for a tool I deemed suitable for battle with ragweed (a machete), I began to hack away.

And hack. And hack. I could only work at their bases above the ground, trying to topple them; they were too big to uproot.

The woody stems were almost as thick as my wrist. They refused to let go of life without a sturdy fight.

Having moved to Missouri a year and a half earlier, I was new to the state and didn’t know much about ragweed. For example, that I’m highly allergic to it.

My nose ran. Where I dripped sweat—which was everywhere—yellow pollen stuck to me. My hands were red and puffy. I alternated between puffing and wheezing. My eyes got bulgy. I could feel them tearing up.

The bout reached a decisive moment for victory.

Gen vs. Ragweed

OFFICIAL FIGHT ANALYSIS: Gen outmatched, exhausted and overheated, falls with a defeat time of one hour despite being in a much higher weight class. Ragweed wins, celebrates its victory by standing proud in 95-degree weather.

I gave up. Back inside with iced tea and air conditioning, I looked out the picture window again.

In my new home for less than two weeks, I was already defeated by a weed with a nature for knockout through fast growth, allergens and strong stems.

I surveyed my work down the fence line. I’d removed about a four-foot-square area.

It was hardly noticeable compared to the 120′ of ragweed that stretched across the front.

We had some work to do.

The Harvest Story

A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. (Matthew 13:3-8, The Message)

Maintaining a healthy spirit

barbed wireWhen soil is disrupted, this is a time when weeds take root. When the foundation of your life is being turned over (think: teenagers, any kind of big life transition like the end of a relationship, job loss, health issue), you’re more vulnerable. Ask for help.

Give yourself more time to rest and reflect. You’re setting up the rest of your life. You need to replenish yourself.

It always surprises me how little it takes to go from choice to consequence to habit. A bad choice seems innocuous, small as a seed, “just this once.” But that choice grows and takes root in your life until it’s a habit, like a patch of six-foot-tall ragweed, defiant to change.

We did get most of the ragweed out and we removed the barbed wire fence, all 1,800 feet of it. The ragweed comes back every spring, eager for sunlight. Nature shows us competition: for space in the physical world, the mental world, the spiritual world.

Good soil needs constant nourishment. What are you doing to build the vitality of your spirituality? What will grow in the ground of your life?

Be the good soil and bless the world!


May we be people of good soil,
not just asking for the bread of the
harvest but growing,

bringing a bountiful harvest
of love and compassion to all we meet.


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