In the Garden of Wheat and Tares

(Re-blogged from May 2011)


Some are pretty, especially the ones which bloom after the last Winter snow. I don’t like pulling these beautiful flowers up. What harm are they doing?

The answer is that weeds use resources needed by plants the gardener wants to grow. If weeds get big enough, they can cause those plants to be unproductive or, sadly, to die.

I still felt sorry for the weeds.

I have a passion for social justice. My heroes are people who have  overcome great injustices. I could identify with these folks, because I have faced injustice in my life, knew the pain, and with God’s help. have overcome a lot.

I grew up reading about the vengeful God of the Old Testament. And, more times than I’d like to admit, when someone hurt me, I have asked God, in prayer, to ‘sic’ em, as if He were my own private guard dog.

Sometimes, my prayers for vindication were answered with a swiftness and appropriateness to the situation that made me feel sorry for the people involved. In some cases, God let me wait, or never know what his answer would be. I had a lot to learn about the times where justice doesn’t seem to be coming, or seems to be long delayed.

In one particularly hurtful episode several years ago, I confronted my need to be around addictive and abusive personalities. I went to a co-dependency support group. I read my bible, journaled, and sought counsel. Most importantly, I did everything I could do to distance myself from the man who’d most recently treated me in an emotionally abusive fashion.

Unfortunately, control was important to this man. He was very immature. He liked attention. He was very charismatic. He had come from a domestic violence background himself. He lacked the insight to see that abuse could happen without the use of physical force.

When I tried to address a problem that affected us both, he refused to be accountable. Found ways to turn it around and make it my fault. Threatened to tell my friends confidences I shared with him. Also, he threatened me that his family would ‘tear me up’ if I tried to discuss our problems with them.

If I stood my ground, he would pout, and be  quite unpleasant to be around. Once, he told me that he was the ‘perfect chameleon, the perfect fake.”

Later I realized that he was subtly warning me that he believed he could get away with whatever he did to others. That he would be able to explain it in such a way as to be believed by the authority figures in his life.

I tried to  put him and the unhealthy relationship we had shared behind me. Told him (and the unhealthy young woman he was dating) in writing that I wanted no further contact. She persisted until I threatened to file legal charges.

He backed off for a while, but then, up until shortly before he left the area, made attempts at contact again. It seemed like a game to him.

Once, I’d felt great love for him, and he had verbalized the same for me. However, once I tried to put distance between us, he said things or allowed things to be said in our small community that were designed to discredit me.

I would meet someone new (who knew him) and be treated very coldly. He knew how much being liked meant to me, and so, this was every bit as abusive as if he had physically stuck me.

As I grew more healthy, my need to be liked lessened. I was developing confidence. By hard work and consistent, healthy behavior, I was able to win over many of the people who had once believed the insinuations and lies he had spoke or encouraged. When I found he had graduated and left the state, it was like a huge burden had been lifted.

Still, I did not feel that justice had been done. What of his small group of almost cult-like followers, who still treated me coldly or suspiciously? What of the damage he’d done to my personal and professional reputation? And worst of all, what was he doing to vulnerable others in his post graduate employment?

This relationship and its aftermath was very much like my own foray into the garden of wheat and tares. I felt that the rumors this man spread or encouraged held me back in our small, overly trusting community. I felt very much wronged.

In time, however, I saw how this man who I had once loved might see himself as the victim.

Maybe to him, and those who blindly supported him, I was the tare in their garden! That weed growing wild, sucking up all the sunshine, life, nutrients and keeping them from being all they could be!

Was it possible that he or the people he influenced were asking God to pluck Laura, that nasty ‘tare,’ out of their garden? To give them vindication?

If so, it would seem that God, loving us both, had to be shaking his head. Wondering when we would grow up. When would either of us learn about mercy, grace and true forgiveness?

Had He wished, God could have declared either or both of us ‘tares’ in His garden of love. He could have snatched either or both of us, roots and all out of His garden. However, the likelihood is that part of a neighboring plant, growing well, might have gotten damaged. Maybe several plants might be harmed.

And to God, that’s just not worth it.

I think God wanted us to learn to stop pointing fingers. To remember the love we had once said we had for each other. To stop playing power and control games, or responding games of victimhood. If we couldn’t be friends, then to at least learn how to coexist.

It is difficult when waiting for justice. More difficult still when the behavior of your ‘tare’ continues to hurt you, but the person in question not only gets away with it, but appears to prosper. It might be tempting to give into bitterness or even hatred.

However, I believe that God wants us to learn to extend mercy, grace and love to those who hurt us. To use discernment about the people in our lives. To leave it to God to decide what is a ‘tare’ and what is simply a plant which is not growing well.

It is not just when we grow in orderly rows with one another that education happens. Sometimes, growth happens when pain grabs our attention. Sometimes it happens when the problem people of our life make things rocky.

Such times give us the opportunity to learn about a deeper kind of love. The kind that happens when our ideals are shattered, our expectations are left barren, and our hopes are dashed.

Perhaps it is at such times, God wants us to learn, in the garden of wheat and tares, to love with Calvary love.