Sunday School Kid hadn’t been himself lately. He usually had a quick smile and laughed easily, but lately, he was quiet and the light had gone out of his eyes. He did his chores half-heartedly and didn’t join in the lively chatter around the supper table with his family. His mother was getting concerned. After asking Kid a question for the second time without getting a response, she laid her fork down and said gently, but firmly, “Son! I have asked you a question twice now and you have not even heard me. What is the matter with you?”
Sunday School Kid looked up from his plate, startled. “I’m sorry, Mom. I guess I wasn’t listening. What did you ask me?”
“I said,” repeated his mother with exasperation in her voice, “What is the matter with you? You have been off in your own world for most of our meal. You haven’t even noticed I made your favorite dessert.” Then she added softly, “Honey, what is bothering you?”
Sunday School Kid’s face clouded and his voice took on an angry edge. “Oh, I was just thinking about what Jake told me that Larry told him that he heard that Pete was telling people that I said.”
“Excuse me?” Kid’s mom said, with a puzzled look on her face.
“You know, Mom!” Kid’s little sister spoke up excitedly. “He’s still mad at Pete for saying those things about him.”
Kid’s mom turned to face his little sister. “Sis! Only dogs get mad, people get angry.”
Little Sis looked puzzled. “What does that mean?”
Sunday School Kid’s dad spoke up as he poured chicken gravy over his potatoes. “You know, Sis, “mad” as in “mad dog”…as in frothing at the mouth because of rabies.” He suddenly quit pouring gravy and looked at his plate with a grimace. With a little sigh, he pushed his plate away and said, “I don’t seem to be hungry anymore.”
Sunday School Kid’s mom spoke with a little frown, “That happened weeks ago. Why, I don’t think it bothered you as much back then as it seems to be now.”
Kid’s face darkened further. “I know mom, but the more I think about it, the madder…I mean, the angrier, I get!” His face became sullen as he glared down at his plate.
Sunday School Kid’s dad looked at him in thoughtful silence for a moment, then he pushed himself away from the table.
“Great meal, honey.” he said to his wife, giving her a little kiss as he passed. “Come on Kid, let’s head to the garden.”
Kid groaned. He knew what that meant. It meant at least 30 minutes in the garden pulling weeds. His dad would hoe and he would follow behind, bent over, pulling weeds and throwing them out of each row. His dad always insisted that he get the weeds well away from the plants, even though it meant more work. Between fighting mosquitoes and pulling weeds, it was one of Kid’s least favorite chores.
Sunday School Kid and his dad headed to the garden, but when they got there, instead of going in and pulling the weeds, his dad just leaned on the fence and pointed at a plant and said, “Is that a tiny mustard weed over there?” He slapped the fence with his hand and said, “I don’t believe it, but it looks like some corn got in with the beans.” He shook his head and said, “That’s too bad; those beans will never thrive with that corn in there.” Then Sunday School Kid’s dad yawned and said, “Well that’s all for tonight. Let’s go in.”
Kid’s mouth dropped open and he watched in amazement as his dad left the garden and walked back into the house. Kid stood there a moment looking first at his dad, and then at the garden, then back to his dad again. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders, put his hands in his pockets and walked back into the house behind his dad. He didn’t understand it, but he was not about to question it. He had been spared one evening of weeding and that was fine by Kid. Trouble was, it wasn’t just once.
The next evening, Kid had just finished his dessert, and as was usual, his dad pushed himself away from the table, saying what a great meal it had been. He gave Kid’s mother a kiss and said, “Time to head to the garden, son.” Kid sighed and got up to follow his dad. He’s supposed they would be in the garden a little longer this evening since they had skipped yesterday. “Oh well”, Kim thought, “at least I got out of one evening.”
Sunday School Kid’s dad walked ahead and put his hand out to the fence, then stopped and said, “Would you look at those weeds? That little bit of rain we got last night and the sun today, made them shoot straight up! It sure is a shame they are there.” then he turned around and started back to the house. Kid wrinkled his forehead, puzzled. His dad turned around and called back to kid, “Well, what are you waiting for? Let’s go in.
Sunday School Kid didn’t know what to think. Two days in a row without garden work. He knew he should be happy, but he had a funny feeling in the bottom of his stomach that it was not a good thing. Kid threw a worried look at the garden, and then headed into the house. The rest of the week was the same. They would eat supper, then head to the garden only to just look at it. His dad would comment on the weeds and they would head back to the house. Something was very wrong.
Once more it was supper time and Kid was uneasy. His dad didn’t look like he was enjoying his food even though his mother had made one of his favorite dishes. It was too quiet. His mom and dad didn’t laugh and talk about their day like they usually did. Even Sis was quiet. Kid jumped up when his dad pushed his chair away from the table and headed out to the garden without waiting to be told. He hurried along, but somehow his dad stretched his legs and got to the fence just before Kid could reach out and open it.
Sunday School Kid’s dad had an unhappy look on his face as he gazed over the garden. He said solemnly, “More weeds, and that corn plant has started to push the beans right over. Look at that mustard weed. Soon its roots will be wrapped around the sweet corn root.” He sighed a heavy sigh and said, “Let’s go in.”
Sunday School Kid froze for just a moment, and then said, “But dad!”. His dad answered back with a little edge to his voice, “I said, it’s time to go in.”
Sunday School Kid didn’t know what to think. He wasn’t happy. Things were just not the same. His dad wasn’t the same. The garden wasn’t the same. Kid had never seen their garden allowed to get weedy before. His dad had always taken such pride in the way it looked. Now, it was a mess. Even from the road you could see it was a mess. He didn’t know what to do. He wished his mom would say something to his dad, but she only looked grim and pretended nothing was different.
Finally, an evening came that Sunday School Kid felt a change in the air. The family bowed their heads in prayer over their dinner as dad prayed reverently over their food. “Dear Jesus, you know our hearts and you know the prayer of our heart is that we serve you this day and every day without spot or blemish. Your Word, Lord says that we are to pass our time here on this earth carefully considering how you would have us to live. I ask you now, before we partake of this wonderful blessing of food that you have given us for our nourishment, to turn the searchlight on each of our hearts and make us to know if we have sin in our lives that needs to be repented of so that we may ask for forgiveness. We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.”
After they ate, once more Sunday School Kid’s dad pushed his chair away from the table, thanked kid’s mother for the delicious meal, gave her a kiss and said, “Let’s go, kid.”
They reached the garden gate together this time, both reaching out to the latch at the same time. Sunday School Kid’s dad paused and put his arm around Kid’s shoulders. He turned Kid to face the garden and said, “Kid, what do you see?” Kid said, “I see a mess!”
Sunday School Kid’s dad nodded his head and said solemnly, “That’s right, you see a mess. You no longer see a garden, because a garden, no matter what stage it is in, is full of promise of good things to come. Things that are not only pleasing to look at, but also good for our nourishment and health to our bodies. You know, Kid, every garden has weeds come to trouble it, but if we get right on them every day, find them, dig them out, and get rid of them, our garden continues to grow and to flourish and eventually bears fruit or vegetables or whatever is planted in it. Now, what we plant or what we allow to grow in our garden is up to each of us. But, Hebrews 12: 14, 15 tells us to pursue peace with all, and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord: watching lest there be anyone who lacks the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and many be defiled by it.”
Kid looked down for a moment, and then gazed out at the garden sadly. “You’re talking about me aren’t you Dad?”
Sunday School Kid’s dad squeezed kid’s shoulders and said, with a catch in his voice, “Yes, I am, son. Your mother and I have seen a change come over you lately, that has us very concerned. You have not been our “pleasant garden” that we are so proud of and love so dearly. You have allowed weeds of anger and bitterness to take root in your life. Son, we love you too much to just hope that you, “get over it”. Your mother and I decided to let our precious garden go to weed in hopes that you could see the danger of letting the “precious garden of your soul” go to weed.
Sunday School Kid threw his arms around his dad and wept. I’m so sorry, dad. I didn’t see what being mad…I mean angry, was doing to me. I’ll never forget our messy garden. I’ll never let anger and bitterness control me again.”
Sunday School Kid’s dad wiped his eyes and grabbed the hoe. “Are you ready, son? It’s going to be a lot of work to put this mess right again. We’ll have to haul all these weeds out of the garden or they might take root again.”
Sunday School Kid grinned and grabbed a wheelbarrow. You bet I’m ready! Let’s do it!”
In the house, Sunday School Kid’s mother jumped up from her knees from by the window where she had been praying and interceding, and with shouts of joy, she danced around the room praising her God.