along with my aching back.
I collapsed in sheer exhaustion days later when I finally yanked on that last leafy stem, my body hurting in places I never knew existed. Still, looking out at the now the barren hill, I was filled with a pleasant sense of accomplishment.
My reverie was short-lived, however. At dinner that night Joe mentioned in passing that if I wanted to keep those ferns from coming back, I needed to make sure all of the roots with their bountiful propagating balls were dug out and discarded.
Not only were there scores of tenacious tentacles burrowed deep in that soil, but hundreds of brown balls had left the landscape looking like the aftermath of a muddy hailstorm. So I collected and shoveled and pulled and wrestled like a mad-woman, swearing under my breath at the fern gods, and if I'm honest, my beloved husband (what was he doing all this time while my head was buried in books?)
Feeling desperate I even paid my grandsons a nickle each to collect those rootballs, which they did with glee for about five minutes, earning a hefty sum before they tired of the task.
I knew that having come this far, there was no turning back, so I bravely soldiered on, painfully aware that Dr. Rhodes or not, no one else was going to do this job for me.
A funny thing happened as the hours stretched into days. Gently the Lord began to write a parable on my heart about those persnickety plants. It happened as I was pulling up a cluster of new growth and realized it had no root balls. I couldn't believe how easily it came out of the ground, and lamented to myself how I wished they could all be this way. That's when my little hill became a metaphor for my soul.
You see what had frustrated me most about the whole fern adventure was that I knew that had I simply spent a few minutes dealing with those wayward stems each week, I would never have gotten in this predicament. Indeed, that garden cleanup might have lasted an hour or so rather than an entire week.
Once the Spirit began to drive this home, every single stem, root, or hairy string of balls I excavated from that hard ground reminded me of what happens when I fail to care for my soul, when I let things go, when, out of sheer neglect, I wreak havoc on the most important part of my being (never mind my family and friends).
Here's the thing. It really doesn't take long to tend our souls, to give them the attention they need so that the beautiful fruit of God's Spirit can take root as He cultivates the soil there.
But what frustrating fallout when we fail to take that time! I know, we all intend to get to it, but what we don't realize is that with every delay, things like those seemingly innocuous sins, unhealthy attitudes, bad habits, inappropriate actions, or unwise decisions are slowly seeping into our souls, spreading out their tentacles, securing their nasty hold. Then one day we are miserable and we sorely feel our sorry state, but the last thing in the world we want to do is take the time to clean up that mess. The enormity of the task seems debilitating, to say the least.
Deuteronomy 4:9 puts it simply: "Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently." Truth be told, it does take a measure of diligence to attend to our souls, but my friend, have you considered the alternative? May the parable of the ubiquitous ferns serve us all as a ready reminder in the days to come.