SGWS S1:E8- Garden Protection: Thick Skin Part I
Last night, the temperature went way down. I hope it did not frost. I should have protected my plants. I planted my vegetable garden seeds last week and some flowers from my neighbor this week because the spring has been a warm one so far, and it felt like time. This week, little cotyledon (cot a lee den) of little seeds are popping up for our radishes, arugula, rainbow chard, and spinach. Cotyledons are those little beginner leaves that come out first, technically “an embryonic leaf in seed-bearing plants, one or more of which are the first leaves to appear from a germinating seed” Ahh that’s what they are called, those little leaves I have tended to doodle my whole life. I just saw the zucchini break the seal of the earth yesterday pushing through like it took a great effort and now is resting in it’s accomplishment in stillness. Other seeds are resting in their beds beneath the blanket of the soil in the comfort of the dark and warm place preparing for them to reach out to the world.
At the beginning of the week, I weeded the beds for the new flowers with my sister. I remarked to my sister that I wondered what in the world a redeemed weed would look like as I frustratingly dug out stubborn weeds—those weeds that teach you the meaning of tenacity. I wondered if they would be made new into their true form, redeemed into a greater purpose. Or would they be there at all? I looked out to the beautiful wild violets that terrorize my landscape. They have such visual beauty, but oh, they like to choke out good plants. Their roots are insanely strong. I wonder what happened to them to be so self-protective.
Many years ago, I remember musing over dandelions. Of course the seed stage of the flower is a whimsical image we all cherish from childhood. We want to pick them and blow the seeds as wishes into the world. I used to run to them as a kid. To find a one perfectly intact was a treasure.
Do you remember the first time someone told you they were not good? That they were, in fact, a weed? I don’t remember the details, but I remember feeling like something had gone terribly wrong. No, these beautiful things could not be bad. They were my golden treasure, wish-making delights! They are the stuff and fluff of daydreams and abundance, are they not?
In college when I learned about discipleship, evangelism, and spiritual multiplication, I thought of dandelions as fruitful Christians. To the world, they might seem foolish and maybe even offensive, but they keep on reflecting the sun with their golden petals made in the image of that shining star. They die by spreading their seeds, but the result is more radiant blooms exponentially grown. They have a deep tap root and are found just about all over the world. Grownups are more prone to dismiss them, but children run to the message of the dandelion. Some even rub the flower on their arms or chin to discern if you like butter. Oh haha. Of course, as all metaphors do, this one breaks down and is not perfect because after all, a dandelion is still a weed.
A few years ago, we visited my aunt and uncle in Iowa. My uncle took us on a morel mushroom hunt. My appetite was whetted as he told us about the large load he found last year. I was hungry for them. We were eager to find the little delicious fun guys (sorry had to), and we set out into the wild cool air of the woods. We scoured the surrounding woods for hours as he told us stories, and we got reacquainted. It had been several years since seeing him last, and he had a lot to share. Looking under leaves and around stumps and branches and all around those woods, we were imagining seeing those brain like textures of the morel. We searched and searched. I kept thinking I was seeing one to be quickly disappointed to find not one hint of a mushroom. Hours later, we were tired and disappointed. Nothing. You see, I thought that my uncle had gone before us, and already seen them and wanted us to find them much like a scavenger hunt for a child. I assumed he was taking us on a trail that led to the morel hoard. We were not children, but all twenty-something adults; and this assumption was just that, an assumption. Wrong. He reckoned that it was about time for mushrooms to come out, but he didn’t know. He just thought it would be fun if we went on a mushroom hunt together. We were disappointed. And my appetite was denied the treasure of the morel.
When we arrived back to the house, my aunt noticed the general disappointment clouded over all of us and singled me out as most disappointed. She knew my hunger and excitement being squashed was getting to me, like a child, I couldn’t hide my emotions at that moment. She, with a twinkle in her eye, remembered something she used to do with her family years ago. “You want some mushrooms, Sarah? I can make that happen for you! I’ll get you some mushrooms.” She went outside and came back with a stash of dandelion flowers. She smiled and almost magically giggled as she thought about what she was up to. I don’t remember exactly how she prepared them and what she mixed into the flowers, but she breaded them and fried them up. She said they used to make mushrooms like this when she was younger and had an appetite for mushrooms, but alas none could be found.
Did you know that dandelions are edible? I didn’t. Well, they didn’t exactly taste like mushrooms, but the way she loved me by taking the time to make these little dandelion mushrooms will forever live in my memory.
This morning, I thought of the day a few years ago I found a kindred spirit in reading about the early 20th century missionary and artist, Lilias Trotter. She drew a little picture of a dandelion with seeds starting to blow off into the page with these words in her journal, “Measure thy life by loss and not by gain, Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth for love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice, And he who suffers most has most to give.”
I think what I’m trying to say is something about protection. Love protects, but it does not insist on its own way. Love endures, dies, and hopes. It seems very vulnerable to be a fragile dandelion on the verge of death. Sowing those seeds will mean the end of that flower’s life. It seems the self-protection was let go to enter into a greater protection outside of itself.
I have spent a lot of time protecting myself in my life. I was doing the best I knew how to protect myself, but now I know that I have a better Protection. You see, striving to protect myself from negative things actually did a really tenacious job of choking the growth in my life, much like a wild violet. It looked good to me, but there were consequences personally, relationally, and spiritually. The world told me to grow thick skin. Jesus calls me to be softened and made meek. And somehow, there is power and glory and joy in it. You see, it’s not about the best the world can offer, some fungus hoard in the decay of the dying forest. It is about the relationship with family and the love of His Presence. The seeing and knowing each other enough to take your family on a treasure hunt, enough to make some mushrooms for the little girl inside of the grown woman in the middle of nowhere.
I remember hiding under sarcasm and humor and diminishing my true feelings to appear to have it all together. I looked to things that charmed me and kept me numb. I called bad things good. I let honey covered rot come out of my mouth. I influenced my family and friends with whitewashed decay. It was not true protection. True protection is submitting to the Master gardener to weed out the bad and nourish with the good. True protection is a paradox in the Kingdom of God: vulnerability and death leads to strength and life.
This morning I stumbled upon excerpt from the diary of Anne Frank that I haven’t read in years. I think her words are beautifully honest and wise. She suffered greatly, and she is loving me 76 years later still as these words melt my heart and cut open my thick skin.
Anne’s last entry was written on Tuesday 1 August 1944. It reads:
"A bundle of contradictions" was the end of my previous letter and is the beginning of this one. Can you please tell me exactly what "a bundle of contradictions" is? What does "contradiction" mean? Like so many words, it can be interpreted in two ways: a contradiction imposed from without and one imposed from within.
The former means not accepting other people's opinions, always knowing best, having the last word; in short, all those unpleasant traits for which I'm known. The latter, for which I'm not known, is my own secret.
As I've told you many times, I'm split in two. One side contains my exuberant cheerfulness, my flippancy, my joy in life and, above all, my ability to appreciate the lighter side of things. By that I mean not finding anything wrong with flirtations, a kiss, an embrace, an off-colour joke. This side of me is usually lying in wait to ambush the other one, which is much purer, deeper and finer. No one knows Anne's better side, and that's why most people can't stand me.
Oh, I can be an amusing clown for an afternoon, but after that everyone's had enough of me to last a month. Actually, I'm what a romantic movie is to a profound thinker – a mere diversion, a comic interlude, something that is soon forgotten: not bad, but not particularly good either.
I hate having to tell you this, but why shouldn't I admit it when I know it's true? My lighter, more superficial side will always steal a march on the deeper side and therefore always win. You can't imagine how often I've tried to push away this Anne, which is only half of what is known as Anne-to beat her down, hide her. But it doesn't work, and I know why.
I'm afraid that people who know me as I usually am will discover I have another side, a better and finer side. I'm afraid they'll mock me, think I'm ridiculous and sentimental and not take me seriously. I'm used to not being taken seriously, but only the "light-hearted" Anne is used to it and can put up with it; the "deeper" Anne is too weak. If I force the good Anne into the spotlight for even fifteen minutes, she shuts up like a clam the moment she's called upon to speak, and lets Anne number one do the talking. Before I realize it, she's disappeared.
So the nice Anne is never seen in company. She's never made a single appearance, though she almost always takes the stage when I'm alone. I know exactly how I'd like to be, how I am… on the inside. But unfortunately I'm only like that with myself. And perhaps that's why-no, I'm sure that's the reason why I think of myself as happy on the inside and other people think I'm happy on the outside. I'm guided by the pure Anne within, but on the outside I'm nothing but a frolicsome little goat tugging at its tether.
As I've told you, what I say is not what I feel, which is why I have a reputation for being boy-crazy as well as a flirt, a smart aleck and a reader of romances. The happy-go-lucky Anne laughs, gives a flippant reply, shrugs her shoulders and pretends she doesn't give a darn. The quiet Anne reacts in just the opposite way. If I'm being completely honest, I'll have to admit that it does matter to me, that I'm trying very hard to change myself, but that I I'm always up against a more powerful enemy.
A voice within me is sobbing, "You see, that's what's become of you. You're surrounded by negative opinions, dismayed looks and mocking faces, people, who dislike you, and all because you don't listen to the advice of your own better half."
Believe me, I'd like to listen, but it doesn't work, because if I'm quiet and serious, everyone thinks I'm putting on a new act and I have to save myself with a joke, and then I'm not even talking about my own family, who assume I must be sick, stuff me with aspirins and sedatives, feel my neck and forehead to see if I have a temperature, ask about my bowel movements and berate me for being in a bad mood, until I just can't keep it up anymore, because when everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside g out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if… if only there were no other people in the world.
Yours, Anne M. Frank"
Oh Anne, we are so broken aren’t we? We need a good Saviour to show us the Way to the treasure hoard where all our appetites will be satisfied.
I do declare these words to you from the book of Romans, Chapter 7 verses 7-25
The Law and Sin
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Here is a little poem I wrote a few years ago. “The Secret of the Muscadine”
You play the tough guy,
With that thick skin,
Thinking no one will choose you over the popular guys,
But I know your type,
One deep cut and you are exposed for the sweet, soft soul you are.
You remind me of that warm fall day walking in grandpa’s garden when I first had a taste of you.
He taught me how to know when you were ready.
I was ruined for other fruit and would have to wait until I found you again.
At last, you are here, and I can squeeze every last bit of you until I see you again.
Your tear shaped seeds as ebenezers to the joy you bring on this rainy day.
Like grandpa, you know the secret is to take your time and learn to grow.
Heaven comes when we let go.
Ps. Listen here to full episode.