Leave it be!

It’s that time of the year again; garden and yard cleanup! The chore of getting all the old debris and fallen leaves out of the flower beds should really be put off until after the last frost, but most of us just can’t help ourselves.

We see new life sprouting up from the ground; and as a way of greeting our favorite perennial plants, we prematurely pull away the leaves that might have protected them against a cold snap. Leaves and plant debris around the soil can act to insulate against frosty temperatures.

Worse yet, some professional landscapers take those infernally loud leaf blowers and blow all the mess into the street or parking lot. Of course — and these people should know this by now — the crew that cleans up the parking lot comes by with their own equipment and blows the debris right back into the grass and flower beds.

The cycle continues week by week until much of the leaf litter is broken up enough to blend in with the soil. You would think by now people would start putting those leaves in a nice compost pile where they belong!

The opposing work crews and their exercise in futility are a little like us sometimes. We busy ourselves with matters of no consequence, with the end result of just wasting a lot of time and effort.

Some conversations illustrate this point. A gardener asks a group to identify an unfamiliar plant, rather than looking for the answer herself. Her companions offer guesses, often not well thought out. This causes the gardener more work, in looking up the faulty answer to ascertain that this shot in the dark was incorrect. It’s about as maddening as watching the two work crews battling where to put the leaves!

Do we do this with discussing the matters of greatest importance? If someone raises a Bible question, for instance, do we offer a knee-jerk reply based on some vague teaching we have offhandedly encountered — oh, maybe a decade or two ago? Is this a productive use of our words, minds, or time? It’s like chasing leaves.

An efficient gardener would use those leaves to put nutrients back into the soil. She would do it without blowing them around endlessly, week after week. I compost mine, but my Dad used to till them directly into the soil. Either way is a better use of time and energy than getting them airborne once or twice a week.

A thoughtful and prayerful answer, whether made to a questioner or just for the benefit of one’s own knowledge, is a better and more productive way to nourish our souls. Even without another person present, our Bible study must be more than a useless exercise, blowing around ideas like so many leaves in an artificial wind.

A person might encounter a concept from the Scriptures that prompts her to think, “Well, I don’t believe that.” Such a casual response must sound, to the Lord’s ears, like the awful racket of a leaf blower. God’s written word is no place for off-the-cuff reactions without thoughtful contemplation or discussion.

It’s possible in your spiritual journey that the dead leaves of spiritual clutter are protecting you from shock, as leaves protect plants from the late frosts. At some point, those old notions will be challenged, and you will need to be mindful about what is nourishing to your immortal soul.

But don’t just blow ideas and beliefs back and forth without some deep reflection, prayer, and study.

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Christine (Tina) Berglund

Christine lives in middle Tennessee with her husband Gary, a.k.a. "The Yard Boy." They have served churches in eight states where Gary has preached full-time most of their married lives. The children have flown the nest, but they "baby" their plants now, and even get to visit grandchildren once in a while.

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