Our new home has a backyard the size of a baseball field. That’s what my husband said the first time we walked around in it. We stood on the crooked deck, gazing at the sprawling green ahead of us. We’d said we didn’t want a large yard to care for, but while we stood there, staring, what we thought we didn’t want became what we did. I saw future versions of us in that yard.
We live on Kickapooo land, at the end of a cul-de-sac at the top of a little hill, and the furthest part of our backyard backs up to a barbed wire fence with trees and tangled vines on the other side of it. The land on the other side is big and wild. Our kids call it the jungle.
We’ve spent the last few weeks cleaning out that patch of yard on our side of the barbed wire. Winter left the area covered in broken walnut shells, white weeds that look like ghosts, broken sticks, dead pine needles, and vines that fell from the trees reaching too far over the barbed wire.
Cleaning the space feels impossible. More than once, I was mad that it had gotten to the point that it did. I silently wondered if we’d made a mistake. I was overwhelmed about how much there was to do. We filled more than one trash can, then made piles in the yard so we could fill them again next week, then the week after that. And while we worked, it seemed like new weeds sprouted up like a betrayal of the earth behind our backs. Some of the least obtrusive weeds on the surface have the most stubborn, dangerous roots underneath. I tell my kids we have to get the whole root, otherwise, the weed will keep growing quicker than we can keep up.
It reminds me of the work against racism and injustice in the American Church. We tiptoe around hard topics and say yes to unity, while bristling about investing in the tools needed to uproot the weeds that choke its possibility. Just as it was easier to believe in the yard I saw in my mind when my husband and I stood on the deck for the first time, it was easier to believe in working towards a fuller picture of the imago Dei in a community of believers before the work of it made my back ache and my heart break.
Are we out of our minds to persist in learning how to tend to this land under our feet, one weed pulled, one thick vine loosened, or one how-to-tend-to article read online at a time? Are we fools to speak the truth in love, help educate, and persist in sharing our vulnerable stories as people of color, even when it feels like no one cares beyond the hour-long entertainment of a panel on racism or the comfort of another book club?
Church, what will it take for us to love the land we live on and every life that depends on it? What will it take for us to acknowledge the violence and injustice that’s occurred on it for generations and tend to the land as if we truly believe that we all belong?
I search through Scripture, and instead of finding one verse to answer all of my questions or a God who takes sides, I see a God who tends to broken things.
I see a God who, through Jeremiah, told His people to serve the land and people they lived among in exile — the ones they called enemies. He said that their welfare was tied together. He didn’t tell them to build walls and make rules about who was in or out. He told them to plant seeds and seek the prosperity of the whole city.
Recently, my daughter came running from staring at the newly bloomed flowers in front of the barbed wire, to tell me there was a monster screaming on the other side. She was convinced. I walked her back to listen and watch the way the wind blew crowded trees against each other. One stretched across another like a bow moving across a stringed instrument. Giving it another chance, she heard sad music, not monsters.
Are you staring a space of dirt where the trees have gone wild, tangled, and dead, listening to what sounds less like life and more like a thousand monsters overhead?
In Jesus, we have hope for the redemption of every broken, tangled thing. In Him — the one who bent low to wash the feet of those He knew would betray Him, doubt Him and refuse Him — we find a way to keep tending, uprooting, and repairing.
He knows the hurts and violence sunk down deep into the dirt, and He tends to our ruins, digging up hope enough to bind our welfare together and heal the land beneath our feet.Leave a Comment