We Can Learn from Nature
I hear it a lot. Humans are part of nature. This is true, but what we do with this information is what matters. Some, those whom I might consider modern-day pagans, think that means that nature is sacred and be treated as such. For others, those of us who are Christians, understand that God created us to be a part of nature, but care for nature as God’s stewards. It is that relationship that matters for me today.
At that time, as Jesus went into the house, his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”Matthew 13.36-43
As you may know, I write most of my blog posts while sitting outside on my lanai in Florida. As I listen to the birds and look out into my garden, I am inspired by God’s natural creation. Today’s Gospel reading gives me the opportunity to ponder nature and what we can learn from nature. As I look out into my garden I see several things. I’ve been on vacation, and the weeds need attention. The more time that goes by, the more the weeds move in, but even the weeds have limitations.
The healthier the garden, the less weeds that invade in the first place. For example, this is the season to grow my sweet potatoes. The vines have just about covered the entire space I have allocated to them, and then some. Where the vines are the healthiest, the weeds are almost non-existent. This happens, in case you don’t like to garden, because the sweet potato vines shade out the ground leaving the weed without growing conditions.
Notice I wrote “almost non-existent.” That is because even the healthiest of vines requires attention from the gardener. If I don’t go and remove the few weeds that have found a safe space soon, they will grow to a point where pulling them would disturb the vines. Disturbing the vines means fewer potatoes. This is the context of today’s Gospel, but you need to read the ‘back story’ to get the whole point.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”Matthew 13.24-30
Not every space in my garden is currently planted. In those places the weeds grow faster because they grow without competition. It is the weeds in the potato vines that take my attention. The same is true in our spiritual life. Where we pay the least attention, temptation and sin take over. That is like the spaces where I am not currently growing anything. Where we are putting effort to grow into spiritually healthy Orthodox Christians, the healthier we are the easier it is to fight off the weeds of sin. Some temptation still makes it way into our life. If we pay attention soon enough, we can remove the temptation and continue to grow.
Sitting in my lanai I’ve learned that nature can teach us many good things about our spiritual life with Christ. Even the birds fight off invaders that approach their nests. Whether it is the birds of the air or the weeds in the ground, nature is constantly fighting off that which will do it harm. That’s the lesson for us today.
The more diligent we are in fighting off the weeds of temptation and sin, the healthier we are for God’s harvest. Last year I harvested about twenty pounds of sweet potatoes. The vines are already double what they were at this time last year. Healthier vines make for a better harvest. Healthier souls make for a better judgment in heaven.
That is a lesson worth learning from nature.
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