Jesus Christ is one of the best documented historical figures of his era. But for all we know about him, there remain some huge unanswered questions. What was his favourite colour? Are we really supposed to believe he never followed up the whole “water into wine” thing with turning mud into Häagen-Dazs? And why, given the fact he was a carpenter, were so many of his stories about gardening?
Actually, on that final question, maybe it’s just that gardening lends itself naturally to that kind of metaphor. After all, a brief review of my posts on this blog would make you believe that I am a panel member on Gardeners’ Question Time. In fact it’s just that on the rare occasions I venture out to the desolate wasteland behind my house these posts just keep occurring to me. Look, here’s another one…
Now, I do some weeding in the garden once a year, whether it needs it or not. And last weekend, the rain let up long enough for me to decide that it was a good idea. So off I toddled and knelt down to start pulling up some of the less challenging looking weeds, and Elías came to help.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m pulling up weeds,” I replied, “Do you want to join in?”
He looked quizzical. “What are weeds?”
I was stumped. I don’t know whether you have a brilliant explanation of what a weed is that’s suitable for a three year old, but I don’t, and the best I could do was “A weed is a plant that doesn’t fit in.”
When giving Jesus’s parables names in English, the translators came up with “The wheat and the tares”. It could just of easily have been “The wheat and the weeds”, but presumably that sounded too kitsch. And as I explained weeds, I was forced to think about it.*
Tares or chairs?
Jesus the carpenter could have told a parable about an order of coffee tables which somebody had sabotaged by sneaking in a couple of folding chairs…but instead he chose to talk about weeds. Plants that don’t fit in. I can’t help wondering whether he hadn’t thought of that definition himself.**
Because Jesus’ whole life was about people who didn’t fit in. I wonder whether, putting himself in the gardener’s shoes, he was concerned that those that didn’t look like they fitted in might get uprooted by the workers in their enthusiasm to do the right thing.
And whether or not that was at the back of his mind, it’s a good reminder to God’s toddlers that our main task is nurturing people, not weeding them out.
After all, any idiot can pick the folding chairs out of an order of coffee tables. Only the gardener knows which “weeds” fit into his masterplan.
© 2012 Paul Brownnutt (Except for the Dandelion picture © Jonathan Hinkle)
Being God’s Toddler by Paul Brownnutt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
* If you’ve never heard it, basically some guy sabotages his neighbour’s crops by throwing some weeds into the mix. The owner of the crops is encouraged to pull up the weeds, but opts to wait until harvest to ensure he doesn’t damage any of the “good” wheat. Full story available in Matthew 13
** To reassure any members of the pedant-police who may be reading, I am aware that my speculation is slightly out of kilter with the story as it’s told, but I think my conclusion is completely in line with Jesus’ own. Let me know whether you agree!