I vividly remember that the text for the first sermon I ever “preached” was Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. It was Youth Sunday and my sister and I were asked to give the sermon together. She would address the first part of each verse and I would address the second part. I am 100% positive that it was a terrible sermon, but it wasn’t a total loss…the text has definitely stuck with me. There is a season for everything…a time to live, a time to die. A time to plant, a time to uproot. Basically, the takeaway for me was, “Don’t freak out when things change…things are bound to change. Life, death, love, hate, war, peace. You can’t ever get too comfortable. Things are bound to change.” There is beauty in that statement in the bad times and discomfort in that statement in the good times.
This afternoon as I was working outside in my yard, I was reminded of the truth of verse 2: “a time to plant and a time to uproot.” I spent the first hour of my work time digging up hostas and a part of a peony bush to transplant them. I picked out the shoots of leaves that looked most abundant and healthy so that I could dig them up and bring them down to my parents’ new home. I’m uprooting these hostas so that they can be planted elsewhere. Indeed, today was a time to uproot. Next Wednesday, when I deliver them, will be a time to plant. Beautiful how that works.
But, then my next task muddied the waters for me a bit as I considered what it means to uproot. I spent another half hour pulling weeds. Dandelions were a big culprit, but there were three or four other types that also spring up quickly and take over an otherwise (somewhat half-hearted) landscaped yard. As I was pulling up these weeds with ease, I thought about how strange it was that I had taken such great care to unearth the other plants and these I just pulled (also trying to get the root, but for the opposite reason) quickly, to send into the refuse barrel. At some point, “we” decided that some plants are desirable and others are undesirable. I totally get the reasons behind the decision about what’s undesirable, though. Left unattended, these weeds actually would likely take over the yard. They multiply quickly, grow speedily, and even choke out the other things that I actually intend to grow there. So, I spend time pulling them out by their roots (or other creative ways to eliminate them) so that they can’t find life in my yard. The desirable plants, my hostas and peonies are worth my time to carefully transfer to another location. They offer pretty flowers and actually will fill back in quite well after I thin them out by transplanting them. But those others…off to be destroyed!
The soundtrack to my work this afternoon was an episode of On Being, a NPR show by Krista Tippett. She was interviewing Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities, a place for care giving and community for adults who are disabled. Within the L’Arche homes, those who need assistance and those who offer it both find healing and a place in community. I’ve long admired the work of L’Arche due to the writings of Henri Nouwen, but haven’t heard the voice of Vanier until today. His words inspired, humbled, and instructed me. He has lived a lifetime of intentional community, shared pain (his and others), joy, service, and study. His words were the background of my uprooting today. As I consider the things that I want to grow in my life, I am reminded of the things that spring up quickly and threaten to overtake my best laid plans. My impatience, worry, busyness often creep into my life in insidious ways. Vanier speaks frequently of love–God’s love and our love for God and others–and reminds me that at the heart of love is vulnerability. The love that God shows me is vulnerable, first in the person of Jesus Christ who became human and lived a God-infused life in human form. But second, God’s love offered to me and to you and to everyone is offered through the vulnerable vessel of humanity. God’s love is offered to me through each person that I encounter and, likewise I offer God’s love right back to them.
Of course I know this. I’ve preached this and taught this, written it and said it over and over again. But today, while pulling weeds, I heard it again in a powerful way. If I want to see things–the things like love, peace, generosity, contentment–grow, I need to pull the weeds. I also need to receive the “gift” of pruning when God uses someone else to pull a few weeds out of my life, too. There is a time to plant and a time to uproot. And it’s all in God’s timing. That’s both beautiful and discomforting. Today, however, I choose the beauty. Thanks Jean Vanier. I pray that one day I can embody the life of Christ that you embody. I just need to remember that there is a season for everything under the sun, a time to plant and a time to uproot. Here’s to both!