Our first flower bed was a delight. We filled it with colorful flowers that said, “Welcome!” better than any doormat. Weeds showed up, but it was easy just to pluck them up on my way to pick up the morning newspaper in the driveway.
One morning, I noticed a big ugly weed. Ticked off at this desecrator of the flower bed and how it had outwitted me long enough to grow into an eyesore, I stomped over to rip it out of the ground. Then I realized that it had concealed itself by growing right out of the root ball of a short flowering bush we’d planted. If I ripped out the weed, I risked hurting the good plant.
Caring for Joey is a big challenge to writing a book about caring for Joey. My comfort zone is time spent in quiet reflection. But uninterrupted, focused time is not something that caregiving favors. What I call “chore frenzies” are the norm.
In fact, I’m being yanked away from composing this chapter as we speak. Our son seems to have developed acid reflux or some other digestive system malady in the last few months. All of a sudden, he makes this awful gagging sound. It can’t be ignored. It’s loud and distressed enough that it could mean he’s vomiting all over his room or having a major seizure. So I’ve had to stop writing at least three times to run in and check on him.
Counting to ten and other simple life skills are necessary. Recognizing that some tasks and enjoyable activities will have to be put on hold is Caregiving 101. It means slowing down and rolling with imperfect situations. The weed and the flower grow close together, their roots sharing the same bit of earth. Sure, a violent tug can get rid of the weed, but it takes focused, patient effort to disentangle those roots without hurting the flower in the process.
Taking care of a son who lives with autism exposes some ugly weeds in my heart. It is a spiritual challenge, one that Jesus takes time to address as he tends us and helps us to grow. He told a farming story to make the point: “‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn’” (Matthew 13:28-30 NIV).
Jesus’ little story about weed pulling answers a fundamental human question, “Why doesn’t God just come fix all the bad stuff?”
His answer is that good and evil grow close together. If we are honest, we find good and evil roots entangled in our own hearts. God gives us time to let good fruit of the Holy Spirit flourish in our lives and to dig out our unholy thoughts and deeds. God will not act abruptly because he loves us and wants to gather us into his “barn”—his heavenly kingdom.
We have to recognize the great daily patience lavished on us by God. And as we become aware of this, we must, in turn, lavish that patience upon others, not trying to “pull out the weeds” with harsh or frantic reactions, but applying calm, steady, and delicate care to the aggravating, imperfect people around us.
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What weeds are you tempted to extract?
By Timothy Fountain
Timothy Fountain grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California despite having no football skills. After a stint running a jackhammer and then three years in the Army, he abandoned thoughts of a legal career, attended a seminary in New York City, and devoted almost thirty years to Christian preaching. He and his wife, Melissa, and their two sons, one a lad with autism, moved to South Dakota in 2004. Tim continues a life of trial and error as a husband, dad, family care giver, preacher and writer.