Goatshead thistles, or puncture vine, is the most obnoxious weed in the world (according to myself) and one I never had the acquaintance of until I moved into our current home.
That’s a picture of a bucket of the stuff. I’ve spent the last year trying to figure out how to get rid of it. I suggested burning all of the stuff growing in the driveway and was met with laughter. Why? The seeds are so waxy that burning them only helps them germinate faster. You can spray the vine with weed killer but if it has already seeded, the weed killer won’t affect the seeds. You can pull it up as it grows but you’ll be doing that for years, and years, and years. The seeds can live for ten years or more in the ground, and it’s only a matter of weeks from germination to seed.
So what do you do? There’s one thing that most of the gardening blogs seem to agree on: Goatsheads thrive in acidic or base soils but don’t do well in soils that are well balanced. They do poorly in competition with other plants, so planting another kind of groundcover and fertilizing the hell out of it will quickly crowd the weeds out and prevent them from seeding.
The best way to get rid of them, to put it simply, is to make sure that your yard is a healthy place for other things to grow.
Which is tidily the best analogy I’ve ever heard for how to deal with sin. Want to get rid of anger? Focusing on your anger will never work. Focusing on your anger will only amplify it. The only way to get rid of your anger is to make your heart the right condition to cultivate gentleness. Want to get rid of judgmental attitudes? Trust me on this, focusing on sin will only lead to more judgment and deep hypocrisy. You weed it out by planting other things there: understanding, love, trust. This is true of so many other things. Greed can be treated with giving, addiction can be treated with self-control or self-knowledge, jealousy can be treated with self-care, and bitterness can be treated with grace.
If I had an empty plot in my yard and I thought I had to get rid of all the goatsheads before I started my garden, I’d spend the rest of my life cultivating nothing but mud.
It’s gotten easier to keep them at bay the more the garden has grown in, and for the most part now they are only growing at the edges where they are easily pulled.
And I think about the times I’ve spent in dark depression spiritually, growing nothing but figurative mud as I dug myself deeper and deeper into a hole I thought I’d never grow out of.
And the whole time, God was throwing me situation after situation full of the seeds that I needed to hold onto and cultivate for myself. Constantly I threw the seeds back and then petulantly asked God why he wasn’t helping me.
I imagine God was much like I can be when I serve my kids a great healthy meal they just don’t want to eat. An hour later, their plate is still sitting on the table full of food and they are whining, “what can I eat? Mom I’m hungry!”
And I’m trying very hard not to roll my eyes and very patiently saying, “you can eat the meal I have made for you.”
God must shaking his head and trying not to tap his foot and saying, “you can grow the things I want for you. Seriously, kid, stop worrying about that sh**.”
So you can spend your life giving yourself splinters and sores pulling up a weed that can multiply faster than you can kill it, throwing acid and poison on it and killing everything good and beautiful while it burns and doesn’t even care,
or you can think about what kind of garden you want to grow.
Like I said, it’s all I feel I ever need to know about sin. Because, like with my yard, it’s not the bad things that you should be focused on anyway. It’s the good fruit that you can grow there anyway that really matters.
It’s all that matters.
Don’t tell me about what needs to be killed.
What needs to be cultivated?