Castles in the Sand

When the waters rise, will our castles remain?

I hate working in the yard. I highly doubt I’m alone in this stance, but I’ve always found weeding tedious and ineffective. No matter how much work you do, it takes very little time for it all to be undone.

Yesterday I was tearing out the weeds in my front yard when Kelli came over. She pitched in to help a bit, but it was a question she asked that stuck with me. She wanted to know where the weeds come from, since we’re ripping out the roots and obviously don’t plant them.

It’s a good question. I’m sure garden experts would know the science behind weeds and why they exist, but it made me wonder. I don’t know why weeds return after we go to such great lengths to remove them; all I know is they do. We work so hard to make a beautiful garden, but without constant maintenance the weeds soon overwhelm and destroy.

Of course this shifted in my mind to thinking about other aspects of life where we see the same thing (apparently weeding is a very existential time for me). We’ve been going through some relationship curriculum along with another small group with friends, so naturally I started thinking about relationships. It’s amazing how much you can plant exclusively good things into a relationship and still find weeds sprouting up.

This was a conversation we recently had about arguments and fights among couples. Within a good, strong relationship (friends, family or romantic), you really get to know the other person. While we can’t fully know another person’s heart, we can gain valuable perspective and insight and establish a track record of how they might respond. And we can really come to trust their commitment to us and know they have no desire to hurt us. That’s how and why kids trust their parents so much. It’s truly comforting when you have this with someone and a reflection of how we were made for relationships.

Yet as soon as a disagreement arises, without realizing it both parties often subconsciously assume the other is intentionally attacking them with the desire to inflict pain. While it’s possible this is the case, if you find yourself in that situation then you should seriously reconsider that relationship. Instead, most of the hurts come out through a natural defensive position we each take at the first sign of tension.

As a result, fights escalate and sometimes intentional hurts are dispensed. Even if it doesn’t reach that point, often the struggle to reach a consensus and understanding comes from a subconscious mistrust of the other person. But if we think about it and look at the relationship as a whole, why would we ever feel the need to harbor that mistrust? Why can we feel so safe with another person in one minute, and then as soon as a disagreement arises a flip is switched and we feel so clearly they are intentionally trying to hurt us?

Looking back on disagreements with friends and family I realized how true this was. In fact, Kelli and I caught ourselves doing exactly that when we faced a frustrating situation (I don’t even remember what it was about). As soon as we realized it, we took a step back and acknowledged how deeply we care for each other and would never want to hurt each other. We didn’t know why our subconscious was so quick to go into attack/defense mode. And because we caught it we were able to work together far more effectively, without any of the frustration.

Yesterday as I was in the garden I continued to think through relationships and I realized it all boils down to weeds. We don’t plant them anywhere. We plant beautiful flowers through our words and actions, expressing love to each other (whether it’s romantic love, friendship love or family love) and growing healthy and full relationships. Yet no matter what we do, weeds find their way through.

Weeds start as an annoyance. They barely poke out of the ground, and if you pick them right then and there no one will ever notice. But if you ignore them it doesn’t take long until your most beautiful flower is surrounded. Then it’s your entire garden. If you still ignore them, eventually the flowers are overtaken and wither.

So often we hold our frustrations in. We’re all humans, so we all have tension in our lives and relationships. Those we care about most are almost always those who irritate us the most. It’s a simple reflection of our imperfections and the experience of the world. So we’re told to not be a nuisance, and to just keep it to ourselves. Or maybe it’s easier to be passive-aggressive than to actually work through something.

Either way, eventually those frustrations grow. And it’s not just that they become more noticeable, but the longer we ignore them the stronger their roots take hold. The more we dwell on that minor annoyance, the less it becomes something the other person does naturally and obliviously and the more it grows into something they are obviously doing to drive us crazy. All the while they have no idea.

Weeds are terrible. I hate dealing with them. The work it takes to eliminate them is exhausting and tedious. But I’d be more than willing to do it if promised they’d never return, and I’d take great joy in the work knowing after one day of effort I’d be done and free to enjoy the fruits of my labor. That’s not how it works.

No matter what you try as a method of prevention, eventually weeds will break through the ground. We don’t plant them, but they come all the same. While the worst they can do in our yards is make for an eyesore for us and our neighbors, in relationships weeds can grow to devastate lives and families. We can’t risk ignoring them.

I hate yard work, but I do it. In fairness, I probably do the bare minimum. But when it comes to people, there’s so much more to gain and lose. It doesn’t take much for even the greatest efforts to come undone, so we must be diligent. Weeds will always pop up, but thankfully we have the power to pull them. And if anyone actually enjoys pulling weeds, please let me know. I still have my whole backyard to take care of.

One thought on “Yeah, weeds are pretty much the worst

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