I find myself often thinking about God when we’re doing yard work. There’s obviously a natural connection between God and the outdoors, nature. Plus, working in the yard is often quiet work. Even if Chad and I are working on the same project– which we often aren’t– we don’t talk the whole time, leaving lots of time to think.
The other day in anticipation of our garden party, I was weeding. Not my favorite activity, but something I find I often need to do. We have a set of wooden stairs leading up to the upper part of our yard, and beside the stairs on the right, we’re terracing for a garden. On the other side of the stairs is one of the areas we haven’t yet spent a lot of time. It’s still a bit wild and unruly, with a lot of different kinds of plants growing. The spot I was dealing with was mainly covered in vinca, which is an invasive ground cover (along with pachysandra, you don’t always find vinca on lists of invasive species because they are mainly contained within developed areas instead of growing wild, but it still can grow out of control and choke out more natural plants). The problem with vinca is that it can attach to the ground wherever it’s branches touch the soil, so it’s tough to pull out– thus, I hate pulling it out. But we want to remove it and mulch the area instead.
As I was pulling the vinca out, bugs of all kinds started running away from the chaos. I’ve seen the same thing happen with our pachysandra– these ground covers create wonderful homes for all kinds of bugs and spiders, being shady and well protected. Now, I don’t like bugs, and I really don’t like spiders. In our yard, I have seen a terrifying number of different, ugly spider species. And just for variety, that same weeding day, I was helping Chad screen some dirt we were going to use for soil and I found the biggest, ugliest grub worm I’d ever seen. Of course, I called Chad over so he could also see this gross bug, and I half-jokingly looked to the sky and said, “God, really? why?” But I know why we need bugs and spiders.
And knowing why does give me the slightest pause when we’re doing our yard work because I know I’m messing with their homes. And as long as the bugs and spiders aren’t touching me, I do manage to muster up the slightest bit of pity and compassion for them as they run screaming for their lives while I pull out the vinca. (I guess I don’t know for sure they are screaming for their lives, I just imagine they would be). Here I am, gigantic in their eyes, tearing their homes right out of the ground. I wasn’t going to hurt them, but they didn’t know that. And that made me think of God.
I started out thinking about how crazy they all looked, scurrying in every direction as quickly as they could. Panic, that’s what it was. And I wondered if from God’s perspective, we sometimes look like this, like panic-stricken bugs running wildly, blindly away from the things we fear. Sometimes I’m sure we have real, genuine reasons for our fear and panic. But other times, I wonder if God’s watching us run from things we can’t even understand, things that won’t really hurt us in the end, just maybe turn our lives upside down.
And then I started thinking about the difference between me-and-the-bugs and God-and-the-humans. I had a plan for the yard, which involved pulling out the vinca. My plan, which I intended for good, did not take the bugs into account. I didn’t know those bugs. I couldn’t tell the difference between them. Even their fear, though it provoked some deeper thoughts and pity for them and their little bug families, didn’t affect me for more than a minute as I continued on with the plan regardless of their panic. And I realized this was very unlike the God-watching-humans-panic-from-above analogy I had just come up with.
Because like me, God has a plan. But unlike me, he does take into account all the creatures it affects. He knows us and can tell the difference between us, even amidst our panicked craziness. He doesn’t just brush our fear aside, he feels it alongside us. Even if we can’t understand what’s happening, he’s in control and he’s taking care of us. Even if our homes and lives are turned upside down, he’s alongside us. He knows our thoughts and our feelings and what next steps we’re likely to take. And all that matters to him.
So in the quiet of my yard work, I really love how it makes me consider the world, the ecosystem, God and his plan for us and the bugs. I love that I can see the similarities and the differences in the way I treated the bugs and the way God treats all of us. I love that when I’m connecting with nature, I’m also connecting with God. So while I don’t love weeding, at least I know in the end, both my yard and my thoughts will be more beautiful for my efforts.