It started one day when I took my kids to the supermarket to stock up on some healthy fruits and vegetables. We gathered the usual grapes, strawberries, apples, baby carrots … good reliable choices. We each knocked on a few watermelons hoping one would speak to us and I squeezed several peaches, knowing from experience that looks can be deceiving. As we were leaving, I spotted a daunting piece of fruit with huge spikes on it. A horned melon. We were all extremely curious to see if it tasted better on the inside than it looked on the outside … the old, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. So trying to avoid getting hurt by the thorns, I placed it gently in the cart. The first thing we did when we got home was cut that thing open and out spilled the most vile looking green goo … and it tasted as bad as it looked. This was one of those moments where we had to take a chance and find out how it would turn out … good or bad. Kind of like the peaches I picked out … some were sweet and juicy and others were nasty inside. We have to take chances and use our best judgment, but we also have to be aware of the possibility of being disappointed.
People. Relationships. These seem like such simple words at a glance. I have yet to grasp the true implications of these two things. Whether young or old, we all have to acquire the secret to cultivating healthy relationships and learn to weed out the harmful ones. My children and I know that there are many good people in this world … but it’s those ones that we let in and take the time to grow, that suddenly go bad. It’s the ones that have hurt us unnecessarily that make us ask the question over and over … “why do people change?”
When I was a little girl, I had the privilege of helping grow our garden every spring. I didn’t always enjoy the process of preparing the soil, planting the seeds or watering the dry empty rows of dirt. To me, it felt like I was working for nothing. I couldn’t see the end result for months and it just felt like such a waste of time. Water was essential to the health of the seedlings … and I figured out that the more I watered, the quicker weeds would multiply. I knew that pulling weeds was part of protecting those unseen treasures just below the surface. Weeds … those tiny little things, that if left there long enough will become part of the garden and essentially kill any hopes of producing a fruitful crop. I knew to watch out for snakes and of course other animals that would prey on the vulnerable plants. I like to think of snakes and predators as the more obvious threat in our lives, the Devil himself. After months of seemingly wasted hours of toiling among rows of dirt, weeds and manure, I could finally see the results of my hard work and at last I could sample the fruits of my labor. My favorites were the sugar snap peas … I’d pick them right off the vine and pop them into my mouth … the long awaited anticipation of those crisp, sweet little peas were worth all the work … they were SO sweet! Carrots were sometimes a little iffy. Some would be extremely sweet and others would be hard or “woody” inside, as we called it. The hearty potatoes lay just beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered one by one. It was a bit like a treasure hunt that required a little time and patience, but well worth getting my hands dirty for. Finally, there were the tomatoes. These were always the ones I had to watch closely … some were nice and solid and showed their true colors, while others would appear healthy until you gave them a little twist on the vine … only to reveal extreme damage from a predator that couldn’t be seen unless you looked closer. The final stage was the one where they were in the process of turning from light green to their full bright red potential. They were very delicate and hard to grow, so when they made it all the way, it was a great thing.
As I reflect back on my memories as a child, I suddenly began to see the paradigm that relationships are like a garden and the crops are like the people we let in our life. Seeds are like new relationships … they need to be watered and tended to in order for them to grow. Often it takes time to tend to a relationship and sometimes the weeds or snakes were already there before the relationship began … if the weeds in our lives are not plucked immediately, or they are allowed to multiply, the relationship will struggle to grow and be healthy. Weeds can be many things … jealousy, misunderstandings, gossip, toxic people, unwillingness to forgive, etc … and if they aren’t dealt with, they will kill a relationship or change the out come of the crop. Sometimes even with the best intentions, a crop can start out healthy and end up changing colors or get consumed by “weeds” or predators in the process.
Many times I have taken my kids to pick out the “perfect” watermelon, only to come home and find out it isn’t any good inside … and often we hit the jackpot and get one that is so sweet it melts your heart. At times we think we are choosing the right friends, and they end up being the one bad peach that spoils the bunch … There are many things that we try, that appear good on the outside, but when we cut into them or really get a taste of them they end up being hard, bitter, sour, or just plain rotten. This is the best analogy I can give my kids. I want them to know that there are many good people that are bruised and imperfect, and they are all worthy of love. I want to teach them to not be afraid to take a risk, and to hold on to the ones that treat them with the respect they deserve and to do whatever they need to do to treat people with love. Most of all, I want them to know that in life, there are going to be people that are good, some that appear good until you look closer and dig deeper and then there are those that are just plain rotten inside and out. Watch out for the snakes and weeds in the garden … that’s all we can do.