MaryBeth Eberhard explains how to do an examination of conscience while weeding the garden.
I found myself on my knees in my garden early the other day; it’s crazy how fast the weeds are popping up with all the rain. We have two sides to our front garden; one proudly hosts Saint Joseph and the other honors Mother Mary. It’s a restful place for me with a front porch swing and rocking chairs. Often, I enjoy my cup of morning tea and some prayer time there, so the effort to clean it up is time well spent.
With each weed I dig up, a sense of satisfaction grows, and I realize that this could quickly become a bit of a spiritual exercise for me, or at least some metaphor for how I can approach the sins that seem to repeatedly creep into my daily life; those venial sins that add up and make the soul feel cluttered with fog.
When my children were younger, they used to help me weed by tugging on the dandelions until their heads popped off or pulling the weed until it broke. If you can’t see it, the job is done. “If we don’t get to the root, it will just grow back.” I remind them. It’s worth the work! As I dug each weed out of my flower garden, I realized some had deep roots. There were even small trees that had grown that I hadn’t even noticed, and those roots required both hands and a shovel to pull out!
Some weeds were easy to pull out. I caught them quickly or the soil they were rooted in was moist and they pulled right out. Others were caught in a big dry patch where I hadn’t mulched as recently, and they even made friends with other weeds and had a whole community intertwined with each other! That patch was annoying, prickly, and mandated a big shovel to fully take out the roots. If only I had stayed on top of mulching and pruning, this task would have been so much easier I grumbled to myself.
It’s the same with the little sins I let grow in my life. How often do we find ourselves thinking “If only I had stayed on top of this task, it would not be so hard to dig out of? When I let the busy of everyday life crowd out the necessity of being self-aware and nurturing my relationship with Jesus, weeds pop up fast and furious. I get overwhelmed. For me, these weeds look like worry, self-doubt, comparison, and many others. They lead to bigger sins like gossip, laziness and they permeate the life of my family, as I tend to be the weathervane for my children when it comes to staying rooted in our faith. That mental garden gets pruned to a beautiful state with a humble trip to confession and I begin again. If only weeding my garden were so easy and reaped such eternal benefits!
Over the years I’ve developed a way to pray and weed. Like dieting, exercising, and all good things for you, this serves me well when I maintain it. With each weed I pluck out of my garden soil, I name a sin I’ve committed and I apologize to the Lord. Little sprouts that I pull up with my two fingers remind me of the times I speak too harshly to a child or jump to conclusions instead of listening. Weeds that I think I’ve pulled up and then I must dig and dig to get to the bottom, they require some deeper soul searching. Where did that sin start? How did I let it get so deep? What else wove its way into that sin? Those are humbling exercises. This is great confession prep for me.
My garden looks amazing after a good weeding and pruning session. Each plant and bush is showcased. The soil and mulch look refreshed. Saint Joe and Momma Mary each have their place of honor and I breath in a sigh of peace that both my garden and my soul are offered as a gift to the Lord. May we all take the time to allow the Lord to prune our souls, so they are restful beautiful places for Him to abide.
Copyright 2023 MaryBeth Eberhard
About the Author
MaryBeth Eberhard spends most of her time laughing as she and her husband parent and school their eight children. She has both a biological son and an adopted daughter who have a rare neuromuscular condition called arthrogryposis and writes frequently about the life experiences of a large family and special needs. Read more of her work at MaryBethEberhard.com.