I should have walked away, but I didn’t. We all have our weak areas–our areas where flirting with temptation is almost always a neon flashing danger sign, a skull and crossbones, an “enter at your own risk”. For a few years my interest in these things had been waning, my desire for Christ growing, pushing more and more of my entrenched idols off the top shelf, so I didn’t think I had to protect myself from myself as strictly anymore in this area.
BUT…The garden center was having a sale, the mid-summer sell-off when the best deals were to be found. I would just go in and look around–I did have a couple of spots to fill, I told myself. When the spots were filled I could stop. I walked out with two small tea-rose plants. They would be just the thing, and the colour was perfect for the spots I had in mind.
Gardening had been an ever-increasing passion of mine since I moved into our house a decade ago. It was a natural fit, as my mother is an avid gardener–and a really good one at that. I come from a family of many green thumbs who enjoy the beauty and flavour that gardens provide.
When we bought our home, our entire yard started out as mud, but as the years passed, my skills increased, my knowledge expanded, and my gardens took on new form transforming the monotony of our typical suburban landscape into a backyard oasis. What I noticed as the years passed, however, was that it was never enough. Each fall, tired of the work and upkeep, I would tell myself that I would plant no new gardens or create no new hardscapes the following year.
Each year despite this, as the winter white changed to spring green a new branch of obsession grew. That is what hobbies look like — we can easily get lost in them, tirelessly pursue them, boast greatly in our hearts over them, and most of the time we do not see the chains growing around our necks until we can no longer walk away from them, or worse than that, not even want to.
The Lord began showing me the chains a few years ago, and I had begun what would prove to be a long journey out of obsession. Slowly I began to notice just how important landscaping had become to me. If a ball went into the gardens I would raise my eyebrow (and often my voice) at the kids, my disapproval obvious, my priorities plainly skewed. My interest began to feel more like slavery than choice, as on more than one occasion I dreamed of paving the entire backyard and calling it a day. What I was still to discover was that the garden itself was not the problem, the problem was with me.
So the day I purchased my little roses, confident that it would finally end the reign of green domination in my heart (believing this, if not wholeheartedly, at least giving the impression of such), I carried these tiny flowers to the garden to plant. And that is when the Spirit of God tapped me on the shoulder, and began to teach me …again.
My jaw dropped as I realized that the confidence I had had in my own ability to resist temptation had been like a chocolate bar wrapper without its contents–cruelly disappointing. I sat by the unplanted flowers under the full conviction of my naïve assumption. The realization was dawning on me with full force that I had not sought Him, nor had I even dared looked in His direction. Underneath it all I already knew what His answer would be, and yet wanted to do what I wanted to do. The fleeting pleasure, the rush of creative mastery, had once again mastered me. A war began to rage within, one side deeply troubled by the pit I had fallen into, and the other side trying to figure out a way to make the pit hospitable.
Like a small child I sat there fighting with God, until I was reminded of the story of Esau in Genesis 25. One day, Esau returned from hunting and desired some of the lentil stew that his brother Jacob was cooking. He could have some, his younger brother Jacob offered, but he had to give Jacob his birthright in exchange. Focused solely on the present, Esau sold his right to a double-portion of his father’s inheritance, exchanging long-term wealth and security for one brief moment of satisfaction.
As the sting of my own Esau moment radiated from my heart to my head, I realized in a greater way why Paul told us in Philippians to put no confidence in the flesh. While the sting was still fresh, and my white flag was waving high on the pole of my surrender, I asked God what to do with the roses. At this point I was almost begging to take them back, to remove all trace of my ill-fated decision from my sight, but that was not the choice for me that day. I was to plant them and every time I saw them bloom and fade I would be reminded of the fleeting pleasures, the temporary gods that we so blindly bow down to with such deep abandon.
And so they have; the roses have served as a constant reminder that we are all susceptible to Esau moments, everyday facing dozens if not hundreds of them. Our hearts will always betray us if we count on them instead of the One who is always faithful to direct our paths, the one whose inheritance is eternal.
They also remind me that choices always have consequences no matter how trivial the choices appear to be. As each of the blooms walks on the stage of my garden adorned in all their beauty and fragrance, they inevitably follow in Act Two with browning and decay. In fact, one entire bush is constantly overcome with Japanese beetles, which threaten not only my roses but my entire garden, and leave little proof of the promise of beauty that it had so boldly declared when I gave up my birthright to gaze upon it.
(Luke 9:62, 1 John 2:15-17, Matthew 16:24-26)