We often look at weeds and immediately want to yank them out, preventing them from overtaking the other growth we’ve worked hard to nourish. But have you looked at an open patch of dirt that’s never been tended to alongside the road? What do you see there? Weeds. Usually tall ones and often ones that will bloom with some kind of flower.
While driving by this field of weeds, we can for a brief moment believe they are naturally beautiful. And that may be true. But they are also unwanted plants in the wrong place. They’re not what’s meant to be there. Not what was intended for that soil. So we remove them because, as intriguing as they may be, we must plant something that will grow deeper, stronger roots.
In these verses, we can see where the weeds and the healthy growth contrast through Jeremiah’s prophetic language. Laid before us in the text are the consequences of wise choices and selfish choices. And isn’t it the friction between these choices where growth can rise up between the cracks?
For example, we can lean in too hard into our weaknesses because of self-doubt, anger, stress, or lack of empathy. But when we make small deposits into our true selves, rooted in who God would want us to be, we witness fruit that we bear, like joy, peace, and kindness. It’s sowing and reaping in its simplest form.
I don’t know if we can grasp the full contextual spectrum of how we translate Jeremiah’s prophecies to a 21st century North American existence, but I think as humans we have permission to grapple with what this chapter of Biblical history is communicating to us. This passage in chapter 17 reflects the arch of Jeremiah’s (quite aggressive!) message to Israel in that it provides both distinct warnings against allowing social injustices to occur yet also paints a vision of hope that we won’t be left alone in this world in our efforts to grow in community as the human race.
So we can ask, what does faith look like even when the tree we planted by the freshwater river has its roots exposed to the dry, parched heat? Who do we call upon when our heart needs to be planted anew? There is a God who can handle what happens in the wilderness.
Let us pray:
God, show us the soil that’s meant for our roots. Show us how we can grow even when there are beautiful weeds that may distract us. Make us ready for what’s next. For the unknown. For the wilderness inside our heart. We are grateful that you care how we grow. Amen.