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For Your Weekend: The Things We Can’t Fix

Laura Phelps

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 13:24–30

Fun fact: If you have seen the Walking with Purpose promo video, you have seen the inside of my home. What you cannot see are the English gardens this 1805 farmhouse rests on. As our real estate agent walked us through the grounds, two and a half acres dense with hydrangeas and lavender, I imagined potting perennials with the children in the greenhouse (yes, there was a greenhouse) and sipping lemonade in the gazebo after a long day of tilling the land (yes, there was a gazebo). It was a gardener’s dream! 

Here’s another fun fact: We are not gardeners.
Also, the dream ended when my husband got poison ivy all over his entire body. 

The poor man thought that what he was tearing off the gazebo with his bare hands, kicking into a pile with his feet and calves, and weed-whacking the living daylights out of was Virginia creeper. But alas, as the sad story goes, it was not Virginia creeper, but its evil twin, poison ivy. 

How did this menacing weed sneak its way into our beautiful garden?

In Sunday's gospel, the parable of the weeds among the wheat addresses a similar scenario. A man planted good seed, but when the plants came up and bore grain, the weeds appeared also. Unlike my husband, the servants identified the weeds, and when they questioned how this was possible, they got the truth: an enemy had done this.

The weed in our parable is historically known as darnel, a troublesome weed resembling wheat. One of the plant’s toxic effects is messing with a person’s vision and speech, and when taken in large enough doses, this “mimic weed” can kill you.[1] It is no wonder why the servant's urgent response is to gather and pull them up at the root.

But the sower is in no rush. His instruction? Let them both grow together (Matthew 13:30).

I want you to pause and read that aloud: Let them both grow together, because it sounds like crazy talk. I mean, that’s insanely hard, isn’t it? When you’ve poured your heart and soul into growing something beautiful, the natural human response is to remove the thing that threatens to harm it; to quickly take action and do whatever it takes to protect the life of what you have nurtured and loved from just a tiny seed. And yet, here are the servants, standing in the garden, recognizing the evil at work, and just as they are about to step in and fix everything, the householder calmly instructs them: Let them both grow together.

I may not be a gardener of a wheat crop, but I am a gardener of four precious souls; oh, how I tended to them. I made their baby food from scratch. I breastfed until they could pour their milk. I took them to the beach on Fridays and church on Sundays. I introduced them to singing show tunes in the bathtub, dancing on the kitchen counters, and weaving flowers into a crown for our Blessed Mother. I sowed good seed in my field.

While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off” (Matthew 13:25).

When my children were young, the weeds of this world were more subtle than they are today; they blended with the good. Satan has a way of doing that. He disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). You can be in the garden with your children—right there, fully present—and not even notice the enemy at work. Like the weeds, the enemy hides by mimicry to ensure it is not easily detected and removed.[2] Looking back, I recognize the weeds in the music, television programs, video games, friends, and even teachers I trusted. But at the time, those weeds looked like wheat.

I was chatting—okay, commiserating—with a friend about the pain of watching our adult children struggling with the weeds of their lives. The powerlessness we’re left with, knowing that long gone are the days when a mother’s love and ice cream cone are enough to make everything better. It’s a difficult truth to accept; there are some things we can’t fix. 

“Whenever I step in and try to help,” she said, “I make things worse.”
As a fellow “spackler,” I understood.[3]

Our conversation reminded me of a recent gospel reflection written by Father Sebastian White, O.P., explaining the master’s reasoning for letting the weeds be:

“...the master also knows that his servants are not equipped to do the sorting in his place. He sees what they cannot: that in their overzealousness to engineer a perfect field, they will cause a whole new set of problems and uproot the wheat.”[4]

Letting them both grow together isn’t about ignoring or accepting evil, sin, vice, and the problems that intersect our lives. Nor is it about throwing our hands up in despair, crying out, 

“After everything I have done, Lord, this is how it goes down?” 

Oh no, my friends. Letting them both grow together is not a cry of defeat. It’s a song of surrender. It’s a pledge of unwavering confidence in our all-good, all-knowing, all-loving God, who is aware and capable of handling everything without our help.

If you are like me, tempted to take matters into your own hands, this teaching takes work. We think we know what is best, what our loved ones need, and when they need it. But this is not how God works. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Just because God is in no rush to make a big move, do not mistake this for His hand not moving. He is a God who works behind the scenes (Isaiah 45:15).

Are you waiting for God to fix something?

Are you looking at the weeds around you: in your marriage, children, grandchildren, schools, churches, and country, and not so convinced that God is on top of things?

Does the worry keep you up at night?

Perhaps these wise words from Saint Jane Frances de Chantal can offer comfort: 

“Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.”

By the way, a few months after filming the WWP promo video, we moved out of that farmhouse and into a home on manageable grounds. Our new garden came with its fair mix of weeds among the plants, and my husband, eager to “fix the yard,” rushed outside and ripped an enormous weed from the soil.

As it turns out, it wasn’t a weed.
It was Sweetspire.
A beautiful, fragrant shrub.

If only he had let them both grow together.

Food for thought or journaling…

Have you ever made things worse by trying to fix things? What weeds are you trying to pull that the Lord asks you to leave up to Him?

Jesus, true gardener of my soul, I can not fix everything, but You can. When the weeds grow—and they will—give me the confidence to believe that You are never unaware and always in control. Amen.

[1] Atlas Obscura: Sarah Laskow, “Wheat’s Evil Twin Has Been Intoxicating Humans For Centuries,” (Mar 2016): https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/wheats-evil-twin-has-been-intoxicating-humans-for-centuries
[2] New York Times: H. Claire Brown, “Attack of the Superweeds,” (June 2023): nytimes.com/2021/08/18/magazine/superweeds-monsanto.html
[3] Walking with Purpose: Laura Phelps, “We Are Not the Spacklers,” (Nov 2019): https://walkingwithpurpose.com/we-are-not-the-spacklers/
[4]  Father Sebastian White, O.P., The Magnificat, Monthly Vol. 25, (July 2023) p.4

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