“Weeds are the bane of my existence!” 

That was my mindset when it came to gardening. I imagined the perfectly landscaped garden, free of weeds, with big, beautiful vegetable plants bearing much fruit. I have never achieved this level of “heaven on earth.” Each year, I wade into a sea of weeds, determined to pull them and create my garden paradise. It’s frustrating.

There are whole industries dedicated to producing chemicals that burn off those weeds. Vast fields of corn and soy and other foods, seemingly weed free; I look at these fields and find myself coveting them.

But I am learning the beautiful benefit of weeds.

This week I looked again at my potato garden. Yes, there are weeds. Some of those weeds try to crowd out the “good” plants. But as my kids and I have looked at our gardens this year, we are noticing weeds that aren’t weeds: Wild celeries, onions, dandelions and rutabagas.

Folks, that’s food in them thar weeds!

In the past I might have run my tiller between rows, reclaiming the ground from those ugly weeds, destroying my topsoil for the sake of a beautiful garden. I also would have eliminated the wild food that was growing along with the food I planted.

Folks, relax. Let the garden be a little messy.

Years ago, I visited a church as a potential site for an outreach event. The place was pristine. Someone asked me what I thought.

“I think it looks terrible,” I said. “What?!” was the collective response. I replied, “It’s clean because no one uses it.”

From my homesteading perspective, it was a garden with no weeds. Pretty plants, but the soil had been destroyed in order to keep out the weeds.

Is the garden of your church neat rows of beans and corn, spinach and carrots? Or are there some weeds?

Do I desire a beautiful garden (or church), to the point where the soil is corrupted and even the harvest is unhealthy?

When I go into the world, do I chemical-burn the fields of harvest with my words and my actions? Or do I look for the harvest, the wild celeries and the wild onions and the wild dandelions and the wild rutabagas?

Friends, the weeds are good. Love them, tend them and let them grow. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest.

Denny Dillman is benevolence pastor at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.