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Picking Wildflowers and Pulling Up Weeds

MAY 2020

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By Jera Brand Jera participated in the 2019-2020 Gap Year IMMERSION program. This reflection was written while her team was living in Lesotho duirng February 2020.

My team and I have spent the last month living in the Maputhśeng Valley of Lesotho. During our time here, we have had the opportunity to partner with Growing Nations, an organization that teaches farmers how to Farm God’s Way, providing locals a sustainable source for food and income. Growing Nations also uses farming as a platform to share the gospel, always trusting in the Lord to provide for their needs and their crops.

While living and working at Growing Nations, we have had the opportunity to join the local staff out on the fields and become farmers ourselves. Every morning of the weekday our alarms sound at 4:30am meaning it is a new day with a new crop to tend. We farm when the locals farm which means starting at 5am to beat the heat of the African summer.

The Growing Nations base sits in the middle of the mountains of Lesotho, every side surrounded by incredible views of God’s creation. While it is still dark, we gather out in front of the base as Thaisi, a staff member here who always brings his speaker everywhere he goes, wakes us up with the loud sounds of African music. As startling as they are at 4:50 in the morning, we have grown the love those songs and how they start our day. We grab our work gloves and our hoes and walk partly down the mountain to one of the many fields of crops. As we walk down the sun is normally starting to rise but is still not above the mountains quite yet.

The sunrises here are a beauty that is hard to put into words, but I can say I am really grateful I get to experience them morning after morning.

The simple beauty of a sunrise reminds me of so many things but mainly that His mercies are new every morning, and it is fun to get to watch the world wake up to those new mercies.

We have had several different jobs while learning to farm including planting seeds, laying down God’s blanket (what they call mulch- remnants of old crops, grasses, or leaves), and starting new plots, but our main job has been weeding. I’ve learned the life of a farmer consists of a lot of hard work and that hard work consists of a lot of weeding. We have been tasked with weeding fields full of maize, beans, and rose bushes. No matter what the crop is the weeds still come.

One morning we were again sent out with our hoes to chop down all of the weeds in the field, leaving nothing behind but the crop itself. There was nothing different about this morning in particular, but as I was going row by row cutting down and pulling out weed after weed I felt the Lord say to me, this is a picture of your life. This is sanctification. This is what you need.

I have learned a lot about weeds in my few weeks as an amateur farmer.

Not all weeds are created equally. Some weeds are thorny and ugly. You don’t even attempt to pull them out by hand. They obviously don’t belong and with just one swift chop with the hoe to their base, this weed falls to the ground. They aren’t firmly rooted and they are honestly really satisfying to remove. No one likes the obvious, ugly weeds.

But then there are some weeds that disguise themselves. They almost look like grass, like they belong and are supposed to be there. They are short but wide, and easy to skip over if you weren’t looking closely. These weeds normally take a few more swings of the hoe. They take some work, and you have to get the root or they will grow right back.

And then there is my least favorite weeds which are the pretty ones. You can tell they have been growing for a while because flowers are starting to bloom. It almost feels sad to cut them down. Sometimes, I even will pick a flower and put it in my pocket before I chop the entire plant at the base, thinking to myself I’m saving some of the pretty at least. But even though these weeds are pretty, it doesn’t make them any less dangerous to the crop.

All weeds have one thing in common no matter how they appear- their presence doesn’t allow the crop to grow to its full potential. I have had, and do have, some sins in my life that remind me of each of these weeds- ways that I choose to trust myself instead of choosing to trust God.

Some I hate. They are ugly and obviously don’t belong. I cut them out of my life quickly. Some aren’t as noticeable. They slide by blending in to my normal every day routine. I don’t even notice them after a while. My sins of selfishness become normalized, but they are ultimately detrimental to my growth. While some I even disguise to look pretty. I grow to like these sins. Comparing myself and judging others so I don’t have to look at the speck in my own eye, people-pleasing and seeking approval from others instead of from God, serving for the purpose of recognition or what I get out of it, instead of serving for the good of others, striving for success in life- the American dream- I hurry and busy my schedule so someone can say that I’ve made it. Wherever or whatever "it" might be.

I tuck away these sins in my pocket like the flowers from the weeds not wanting to give them up, thinking maybe they make my life easier, more comfortable.

But it’s just not true. No matter how pretty we make our sin look it is not allowing us to grow. It is crowding in, and if we aren’t careful it will smother us completely killing our ability to be what we were originally designed to be.

As I was weeding this morning, I continued to pray the words of David in Psalm 139.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see it there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

I am thankful that I serve a God who carefully tends the soil of my soul and is walking with me day by day. He is not surprised by my weeds. He is a good Father and wants to make me new. All I have to do is come to Him with my weeds and all, and just like the sunrise, His mercies are new every morning.

“Grow yourself in me O God. Make me receptive to the ways that you water and tend this garden of my heart. Prune me where I need pruning, nurture me where I need nurturing, weed me where I need weeding, and care for me tenderly where I need your tender care. Help me to trust in you, O Gardner of my soul. In the name of Jesus. Amen” -Jim Branch

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