My Trusty Weed Wacker
Sometimes, when we utilize the gifts and talents God has given us, weeds of sin such as pride tend to sprout up. Does this mean we should not use these gifts or stop doing the very things we discerned to be His will for our lives?
Several months ago, I felt discouraged from some events in my personal life, in which I recognized some ugly weeds of pride sprouting up within me. These do happen from time to time because first and foremost, I am human, and pride is one of the most common and ugly of sins. However, for me there is another reason; these and other weeds of sin often sprout up from many years of harboring shame in my heart from past wounds and self-hate.
To be clear, I see shame as destructive and not an emotion. Conrad Baars in his book Feeling and Healing your Emotions, speaks of emotions being “psychic (psyche) motors” that move us towards everything true good and beautiful (God) and away from that which is evil. He states this happens when we use emotions along with our reason and will. Guilt is the emotion I feel when I do something wrong. I can use this emotion to help me stop the behavior.
Many have said shame is different and not actually an emotion but something that is destructive, and I agree. Guilt often starts with the thought, “I did something wrong” followed by the emotion of guilt. Similarly, shame can start with the thought, “I did something wrong,” but is often followed by the thought or belief, “I am something wrong”. This shame grows in the darkness of our hearts when not worked through and can cause self-hate, doubt, despair and more. Even if shame is dealt with, sometimes its scars remain for long periods and still affect us when we are triggered by negative thoughts or memories of past wounds.
Although the Lord has brought much healing to my heart, there are still some moments in which I struggle in seeing myself as "precious in His eyes" as Isaiah 43 speaks of. This scripture has been an anchor that I hold on to when I doubt God’s love for me. Still, sometimes I struggle. It's during these times in which my buttons are pressed by Satan and my weaknesses are given a chance to be glorified by my giving into them and believing falsehoods about myself. When this happens a reverse type of pride happens when my focus is on self, but on what I don’t like about me which can lead to other sins such as coveting. Or, I might focus on one aspect or talent about myself that I like and thirst for recognition in order to feel validated and loved by others.
The Lord has given each of us talents and gifts. These are given to us because he loves us and for us to use them to glorify him and build up the Kingdom of God. All our talents, whether they deal with a ministry or the Church or something else, can all be used for His glory. One of my talents is performing as an actor in community theater. At one point in my life, it was the only thing I liked about myself. When I performed as a character in the show, I gave it my all and the compliments I received from others, validated me which is something my inner being longed for, due to years of abuse, bullying, and rejection from others. But on the stage, I could make people laugh or move them to tears or bring about inspiration depending on the play and the character I had taken on.
There is much good in theater, including the opportunity to grow in community, build each other up and become an act of love. Recently, I took on a role for a play in community theater. And in prayer, I repented for some prideful thoughts that were creeping in. I recognized them as weeds and pleaded with God to forgive me and shared honestly that I didn't want this pride in my life. I thought maybe I should stop performing in theater and maybe even stop some of the ministries that I am involved with because pride is so destructible to the soul.
In my prayer, I was reminded of the parable of the slaves who were given talents by their master. The one who received one talent, buried in the ground out of fear. As we all know, the master was furious and replied, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So, take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” (Matt 25:26-30. Ignatius RSV, Catholic Edition)
I have heard many homilies on this verse in which talent doesn’t just mean “money” but also, the talents and gifts that God has infused into us as a gift. In my prayer, I got a strong sense that God was speaking to me and telling me that He gave me these talents for a reason. He doesn’t want me to stop theater or ministries, because I struggle with sins including pride or other sins that sprout up when I’m doing these activities. He wants me to continue doing what he has called me to do and to be that act of love to others.
But to do this, it’s important to destroy or chop down these weeds of sin or blocks to growth such as pride, self-hate, despair and coveting. I thought of Eph 6:13-17: “Therefore, take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, and having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ignatius RSV, Catholic Edition)
In prayer, I imagined my body being a temple as His word states and that many wild weeds were breaking through the cracked cement floors as well as being overrun around me making it difficult for me to walk forward. I put on my belt of truth, grabbed my "trusty weed wacker” (the sword of the spirit) and told God that I didn’t want these weeds getting in my way for living out his will. I didn’t want them cluttering his temple and destroying my spirit. I then began to sling my "trusty weed wacker" in His name, at the base of these weeds as I thought of scripture verses dealing with pride such as “Be still and know I am God,” “Blessed are the Meek”, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
And then I remembered my Christian therapist telling me about Corrie Ten Boom speaking about how she handles compliments. I then turned this story into a prayer by applying the story to my situation and offered up to God in my words and from my heart. “Father, thank you for the compliments from others. Each one is beautiful and fragrant. I receive these beautiful flowers and take in the aroma and the beauty. I am not a florist in any way, but I gather all these flowers given to me from others and try to make the most beautiful bouquet I can for you. And although it might not be very beautiful or professional since I am not a florist, I know that you will receive and appreciate this gift with much joy, just as a parent would take a crayon drawing from their child and put in a place of honor for all to see.”
This was a life-changing moment that occurred in my prayer. We all have our own weeds. Some weeds might be of pride, or self-condemnation, or hate, or resentments, or sloth, or gluttony or any of the deadly sins as well as anything that is a block to our growth in Christ. If these “weeds” sprout up when we are doing things especially using the skills and talents God gave us, it doesn’t mean that we should stop using these gifts or stop doing what he has called us to do. We need to use those gifts and continue doing his will. If weeds sprout up, then we need to cut them with the sword of the spirit and fasten our belt of truth. We can do this by using scripture verses that speak of his truth and surrender these chopped weeds at the foot of the cross. If we don’t, they will choke us and can become obstacles from doing God’s will, from being an act of love to others and growing in our relationship with the heavenly Father.
Heavenly Father, help us to recognize the weeds in our own lives. Give us the courage, wisdom, and strength we need, to chop them down and throw them away at the foot of the cross. Help us to leave them there and continue to show us your will for our lives and ways to be an act of love as you have called us to be. Amen.