Wineskins Archive

January 21, 2014

Freshly Picked Weeds (Jan – Feb 2009)

Filed under: — @ 7:43 pm and

by Scott Simpson
March – April, 2009

I took a walk tonight—a chilly night—it got me thinking about listening for God. Prayer isn’t always about petitioning—it needs to be about listening too.

So, I got to thinking about my outrageous gas bill and how much I spend just to keep warm when it’s the middle of winter. That made me wonder, as I often do, about the unseen consequences of all the insulating we do just to keep out the rhythms of the natural world. We work so hard to stay warm in winter and cool in summer and dry when it rains and humidified when it’s dry and on and on. It all seems to be fundamentally about control: me controlling my environment. And that, over time, seems to give all of us an unhealthy view of our place in this incredible creation (until, of course, a Hurricane Katrina comes along and reminds us how petty our technology really is).

Paul reminds us at the beginning of his letter to the church in Rome that the very nature of God is revealed to us in the natural environment, so what lessons am I missing out on when I work so hard to separate myself from nature? Tonight, I walked under the stars in silence and cold. Though it sounds like sentimental cenimatography, I even witnessed a shooting star. In other words, for just a bit, I stepped back into connection with the natural rhythms of my home corner of the creation.

This led me to a thought about weeds. When I was young and enthralled with dandelions, I was outrage d b y people who called them “weeds.” I thought the only reason people called them a “weed” was that most folks didn’t want them. That didn’t seem fair. Later, my understanding was informe d b y a few people who knew what they were talking about. It seems that being  unwanted” isn’t really what makes a weed a weed. Being “unbalanced” or “out of sync” has more to do with weedhood than anything else. Weeds take over. They run amuck. They push everything else out, and in so doing, disturb the healthy diversity that usually exists in nature… as God created it. Weeds are “control freaks.” They multiply and multiply and seem to be very prosperous, until you realize that they do more harm than good to an environment.

Interestingly enough, they usually spring up wherever the natural rhythms an d b alance have been disturbed and where WE have tried to exert control and impose another order (i.e. lawns, plowed fields, construction sites, gardens, ditches, etc.).

Weeds result from our tampering.

The more we tamper, the more we feel we have to tamper to get rid of the weeds our tampering has caused. So what about the tampering we do to ourselves? We are a part of this creation, yet we have come to think of nature and the “elements” as wild adversaries to be controlled. The environmentalists can show us how this adversarial approach to farming and land use hurts the world around us, but how does this damage the part of the natural environment called humans?

Certainly it separates us from the potential lessons about God’s divine nature that Paul talks about, but there is something insidious about our urge to impose control rather than fin d b alance. And we don’t just do this with the physical world, we do it with each other. We weren’t destined to bear weeds, but we do all the time, producing more and more of things that reflect little real consequence and often push out the truly consequential. Our lives are filled with purchases and fashions, arguments and pet peeves, shiny trophies and empty compliments, addictions, distractions and indulgences. All of these things spring up out of the trenches and furrows we keep plowing up in an attempt to be “in control” of what happens around us. Why are the “successful” so often depressed? Hard-earned success plows a row across virgin soil and produces at least as much weed as crop.

But of course, the church is not immune to this same failing. The writer of Hebrews has something to say about weeds in this passage:

Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go onto maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation. Hebrews 6:1-9

If we work backward in this passage from the weed metaphor, it’s clear that the field producing “thorns and thistles” instead of crop is connected with those who won’t stop hashing and rehashing the “elementary  principles” of Christian doctrine. They keep tampering and tampering because the weeds in their lives keep them worried about the “elementary” things. It is as though the farmer in his earnest desire to rid himself of weeds and have a banner crop continues plowing and replowing the field, working to get the rows straighter, or perhaps realigning them with the angle of the sun, or spacing them wider, then narrower, always thinking the point is to have a “perfect field.”

Listen to what the prophet Isaiah has to say about plowing:

When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cummin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot,and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way. Isaiah 28:24-26

Paul’s point, and Isaiah’s, is that real growth comes—real fruit is produced—when we stop fretting and second-guessing the details of our dirt work and let God take over and grow something. Maybe we really have forgotten that growth isn’t a result of our hard work or good planning or top-notch implements, it’s the result of God’s work of grace our lives. That could be the biggest lesson in nature about the nature of God: whether frightening, uncomfortable, unpredictable or stunningly beautiful, God will act with or without my approval or understanding.

Paul believed that his fellow believers in Rome were mature enough to set aside worry and debate about elementary matters and simply drink in the rain God provides and to produce “better things… that accompany salvation.” God wants both for us – salvation and good fruit. According to Paul, they aren’t one in the same. But perhaps, like the one talent man in Jesus’ parable, our misplaced anxiety, thinking God “a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed,” keeps us uneasy enough about our salvation that we’re too busy tearing up the dirt to allow God to produce anything in our lives. May it not be so!New Wineskins

Scott Simpson was an English teacher at the high school and university levels


for twenty years, holding faculty positions at York College, ACU and Black Hills State University. Scott also served as Executive Director of Camp Blue Haven

in Las Vegas, NM for two years. He is currently an Educational Specialist working with schools on the Rosebud Lakota Reservation in South Dakota. The Simpson

family lives and worships in Spearfish, SD on the northern end of the Black Hills. Visit Scott’s wiki at: [].

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