I’m not a big gardener, but I like to be outside. I have a few flower beds that needs some attention every now and then, and every single time I’m pulling weeds I think about the principle of repentance.
I don’t know what it is about weeds, but it is the PERFECT parallel for sin in our lives.
I taught a lesson on repentance to my laurels back in March, and thought I’d finally share my collection of thoughts.
What is Repentance?
Jesus Christ suffered the penalty for our sins so that we can repent. Repentance is a change of heart and mind that brings us closer to God. It includes turning away from sin and turning to God for forgiveness. It is motivated by love for God and a sincere desire to obey His commandments.
Repentance doesn’t have to be scary, overwhelming or depressing. It’s a reason to rejoice, because it means we can progress.
Elder Andersen: “The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to “re-turn” toward God. 14 It is the beckoning of a loving Father and His Only Begotten Son to be more than we are, to reach up to a higher way of life, to change, and to feel the happiness of keeping the commandments. Being disciples of Christ, we rejoice in the blessing of repenting and the joy of being forgiven. They become part of us, shaping the way we think and feel.”
Lord, Is it I?
From President Uchtdorf: “It was our beloved Savior’s final night in mortality, the evening before He would offer Himself a ransom for all mankind. As He broke bread with His disciples, He said something that must have filled their hearts with great alarm and deep sadness. “One of you shall betray me,” He told them. The disciples didn’t question the truth of what He said. Nor did they look around, point to someone else, and ask, “Is it him?” Instead, “they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?”
I wonder what each of us would do if we were asked that question by the Savior. Would we look at those around us and say in our hearts, “He’s probably talking about Brother Johnson. I’ve always wondered about him,” or “I’m glad Brother Brown is here. He really needs to hear this message”? Or would we, like those disciples of old, look inward and ask that penetrating question: “Is it I?”In these simple words, “Lord, is it I?” lies the beginning of wisdom and the pathway to personal conversion and lasting change.
A Parable of Dandelions From President Uchtdorf:
“Once there was a man who enjoyed taking evening walks around his neighborhood. He particularly looked forward to walking past his neighbor’s house. This neighbor kept his lawn perfectly manicured, flowers always in bloom, the trees healthy and shady. It was obvious that the neighbor made every effort to have a beautiful lawn.
But one day as the man was walking past his neighbor’s house, he noticed in the middle of this beautiful lawn a single, enormous, yellow dandelion weed.
It looked so out of place that it surprised him. Why didn’t his neighbor pull it out? Couldn’t he see it? Didn’t he know that the dandelion could cast seeds that could give root to dozens of additional weeds?
This solitary dandelion bothered him beyond description, and he wanted to do something about it. Should he just pluck it out? Or spray it with weed killer? Perhaps if he went under cover of night, he could remove it secretly.
These thoughts totally occupied his mind as he walked toward his own home. He entered his house without even glancing at his own front yard—which was blanketed with hundreds of yellow dandelions.”
Types of Weeds
My favorite parallel between weeds and sin, is taking a look at the different types of weeds.
- Clovers— they are annoying and everywhere– seemingly small habits or sins that spill into our daily life, conversations or interactions
- Weeds hiding underneath plant–they steal nourishment, and almost get linked in together–these are sins that we may say “are just the way I am” and are tricky to see
- Weeds that are pokey–these ones hurt when you pull them out–these sins are difficult to remove and take tools to get down deep
- Grass weeds–grass is not bad, but when it’s in your garden, it’s not where it belongs– these are sins that are misplaced, not necessarily BAD, but not the best for you and your life
- Obvious weeds–these are sometimes easy to pull out, an eyesore–these are sins we know we should get rid of, starring us straight in the face
- Shallow rooted weeds–these are simple weeds that just need a moment of attention to get rid of–sins that just need to be noticed right away and plucked before they’re big
- Flowering weeds–weeds that may confuse you if they’re a flower or a weed–these sins mask themselves as being ok, desirable, or fine, but they really are weeds in the end, and if you don’t take them out you can look like you have a full garden, but they’re all just weeds
As I work in my garden and think about the different kinds of weeds, it immediately makes me think of all the different ways I sin, or fall short of obeying God’s commandments.
Behavior of Weeds
- Steal water
- Weeds are weeds because they take nourishment from plants. If weeds didn’t do any harm, it wouldn’t really matter. The fact is that weeds need to be removed in order for our plants to get the attention they need. It’s just like sin. If we don’t remove sin from our live, we may think it’s not doing any harm, when in reality it is stealing nourishment from ourselves that we need. Weeds take sun, water, etc. that the plants need.
- Grow faster
- Weeds grow fast. They spread faster than anything else! I’m no garden expert, but it seems like I do NOTHING, and weeds grow. There’s another symbolism for you. If you do nothing, then sin can creep in. Weeds and sin grow fast. They spread, they become overwhelming and we don’t want to take care of them.
- Constant attention
- In order to keep a well-manicured garden, weeds need constant attention. They need to be regularly picked, treated, sprayed, or whatever, in order to prevent them from coming back.
Ridding Your Garden of Weeds
1. Step 1–Gloves
The first step in removing sin from your life is understanding that you have sin. This is recognition. Before you start picking weeds, you usually do one thing. You get out your gloves.
It’s funny to watch my girls get so excited to come help me weed, and their desire is short-lived. They usually only last 5-10 minutes before they’re inside playing. I always think, who’s in it for the long haul? Who’s willing to get dirty and take care of business? It’s the same with ridding ourselves of sin. We need to put on our gloves and be committed to ridding ourselves of sin.
When you put on your gloves, you recognize that you have weeds, or sin in your life. Sometimes this is the hardest step. You have to prepare to pull weeds. The Lord’s desire that we come unto Him and be wrapped in His arms is often an invitation to repent.
Alma 5:33: “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you.”
Elder Andersen: The scriptures warn us, “Do not procrastinate the day of your repentance.” 31 But, in this life, it is never too late to repent.
2. Step 2–Deciding where to start
Do you start weeding with the big ones, the annoying ones or just from one side of the garden to another? When looking at your life, you may wonder where to start.
Elder Andersen: “How do we decide where our repentance should be focused? When a loved one or friend suggests things we need to change, the natural man in us sometimes pops up his head and responds, “Oh, you think I should change? Well, let me tell you about some of your problems.” A better approach is to humbly petition the Lord: “Father, what wouldst Thou have me do?” The answers come. We feel the changes we need to make. The Lord tells us in our mind and in our heart. 19
We can pray about the sins we should take care of. The purpose is to team up with Christ, as His Atonement is what will heal us. If we start with Him in mind, we will be empowered from the beginning.
“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;,“But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup” (D&C 19:16–18).
3. Step 3–Using the proper tools
Sometimes when I’m in the yard, I think I can pull up the weed on my own. Sometimes it works, other times I can’t. I need a shovel. I need a small rake. I need a tool to help me get rid of the weed. I may try to pull up the weed and it breaks off. I’m tempted to think, we’ll the obvious part of the weed/sin is gone, what does it matter? But I know that I’m there. I’m dirty. I need to take care of the entire root while I’m at it. Whether people can see it or not.
Sometimes we need to use the right tools to get rid of sin. This can be working through the steps of repentance as outlined:
- 2 Corinthians 7:10 If you are striving to live the gospel, such an acknowledgment will lead to “godly sorrow,” which “worketh repentance to salvation” Not natural consequences or fear, knowledge that you displeased God
- “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Talking about it. I had to talk to my husband about HOW to deal with me when things go wrong. Communicate is key! We need to talk to our Heavenly Father! Sometimes we need to talk to the Bishop too.
- “By this ye may know if a man repented of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them” (D&C 58:43).
- Shows you’re willing to do whatever it takes to repent. Accidentally cheated, say sorry. Stole something, return it. Spread rumors/gossip, confront issue.
- RIGHTEOUS LIVING
- Fill your life with righteousness to gain spiritual power. Pray for strength and read your scriptures.
- WEED AND FEED can help our lawn, our gardens, etc. Sometimes when we pull the weeds out we need to FEED THE GOOD that we have left.
4. Step 4–Don’t get discouraged
When we are working to repent, we are changing. Change is hard, and we are often tempted to fall back in our old ways. That’s why it’s important to stay the course.
Sometimes we get trials to cause us to stop, life to slow down, and for us to evaluate what changes we need to make. We may get discouraged, but God is only refining us. He knows us and can help us as we try to change. Become more humble, closer to Him, less worldly, etc. etc.
This last time I was weeding, I was stung by a wasp. I was in so much pain, and had to take a break and come inside. He got me right on my knuckle, through my gloves. I was tempted to forget the rest of my weeds, and I probably would have been fine finishing up another day. But…I had to finish. I had to keep going until the job was done.
I went back and I saw the wasp. Terrified, but aware. I was able to finish weeding.
Another time I was weeding the lawn, and I noticed dog poop in the middle of my grass. I thought, “How disrespectful!” But then, back to my sin analogy, I thought, “Since my grass is already so laden with weeds, the owner of the dog probably thought I didn’t care if I had a dog poop on my grass.”
I call this the dog poop problem. When we have a life of sin, what’s one more BAD thing? What’s another drink, if I already smoke? What’s this if I’ve already fallen victim to that? It’s a scary trap to get in. God does not want us to feel OK having dog poop in our lawn, no matter how bad things get. It’s not too much to handle if we turn to Christ.
5. Step 5–Clean up
When the weeds are gone, isn’t it enough? We need to make sure they don’t pop up and come back. We have to return to God daily, to pray for help and tend to our garden.
Sometimes we have to buy expensive mulch to cover problem areas. We need to know our weaknesses and make changes so we don’t do the same dumb things over and over.
If we are prone to judging, criticism or harsh words, we need a way to catch ourselves and a quick remedy. We need to know ourselves and be proactive in preventing sin.
The Blessings of Repentance
- No more desire to do Evil
Alma 19:33—...”that their hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil.”
Elder Anderson: What a marvelous privilege for each of us to turn away from our sins and to come unto Christ. Divine forgiveness is one of the sweetest fruits of the gospel, removing guilt and pain from our hearts and replacing them with joy and peace of conscience. Jesus declares, “Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” 16 3 Nephi 9:13.
- Christ will help us
Alma 34:15-16 15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. 16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.
Elder Andersen: The scriptures speak of His arms being open, 2 extended, 3 stretched out, 4 and encircling. 5 They are described as mighty 6 and holy, 7 arms of mercy, 8 arms of safety, 9 arms of love, 10 “lengthened out all the day long.” 11
I hope these insights help you on your personal journey to better understand and implement repentance in your life!