So yesterday saw a tremendous amount of work in the yard and garden. I was out with the boys before 08:00 in the morning, and, with the exception of a siesta/riposa from the warm, Wisconsin sun, a short break for lunch, and an equally short break for dinner, I didn't rest until I came in at 9:53 p.m. at night. I was beat (i.e., exhausted), but it was a good beat, a wonderful beat, a satisfying and peaceful beat.
But it also gave me cause for reflection, especially as this is Father's Day.
The first commandment God gives Adam and Eve is, "Go forth, be fruitful, and multiply" (Gen 1:28). Not, "Go forth, be fruitful, but be ecologically responsible by limiting your children to one child per family, or at most two." Not, "Go forth, be fruitful to the extent that you'll be able to give each of your children separate rooms and more or less easily afford their college education." Not, "Go forth, be fruitful, but only to the extent that you can give your kids all the things you didn't have as a child." "Go forth, be fruitful, and multiply." Multiplyyyyyyyyy.
You go into a garden that you have planted, and in doing so, you have endeavored to be fruitful. You want to multiply the seeds you've sown. You want a bounteous harvest. Now it seems that God has other plans, because some seeds don't germinate, some germinate but quickly die, and sometimes weather, soil, or other conditions (e.g., you neglected/forgot to water) take hold. Maybe your yield is only half of what you wanted, maybe it is next to nothing.
God works the same way. With some seeds -- i.e., husbands and wives -- a bountiful crop is created. God be praised. Scripture makes very clear it is He Who opens and closes the womb. Some seeds/couples produce nothing despite their best efforts, even though they be the best potential parents on earth. One thinks of Mr. and Mrs. G.K. Chesterton. God be praised. More locally, I think of a barren couple who has adopted two children. God be praised.
What really struck me yesterday, however, was God's second commandment to humanity, actually to men in particular: Till and keep the garden (Gen 2:15).
A few thoughts flow from this.
First, work was part of God's plan for man from the start.
Second, we have to work. There are weeds, both literal and figurative, that creep in. For instance, in my garden, crab grass and wild blackberry is always attacking its inner reaches with their tentacles. On the property generally, we have this bush that sends out runners and would take over the entire parcel if it could. You can mow it, but heaven forbid you are running in the yard and step on one of the branch stubs. Ouch!
So you have to dig down to remove the root system. The first time I did this yesterday, I couldn't believe the size of this thing. The roots were huge, and they were interlocking. It was about 2' (48 cm?) in diameter. It brought to mind the Gordian Knot. All weeds are like this. If we let them in, they become more and more established and thus harder and harder to eradicate.
The same with sin or just plain bad habits. We slack off at work one day "just a little." Then it becomes habitual, a habit. We sneak a peak at pornography "just out of curiousity," and then we find it's so alluring, we come back for more, then more, then even more, until we become addicted. We send a note to that old hunky flame on Facebook or their work e-mail, "Hi, just thinking of you," and soon, we have a full-blown affair on our hands, even if it's "only" emotional.
In life as in the garden, once we see a weed, we must pounce on it, musn't we? We can't procrastinate and let it go until another day. We can not ignore it. We must take weed killer or our very own hands, and take it up by its roots. If it's not a single root but a network of them, dig away the dirt so you can follow each to its source, pluck it out, and then throw it away for burning or the garbage dump.
That is not enough, though. If you leave a patch of ground bare, weeds will keep coming back. The ground has to be sown with something else. With my ground last night, it was good, "99%!" weed free grass seed. With my spiritual life, it might be a redication to the Rosary, more frequent Mass, not forgetting (ahem) to say the Liturgy of the Hours, more spiritual reading, getting spiritual direction, more frequent confession, more meditation on reading, more contemplative prayer (the most joyful prayer of all), or all of the above.
Finally, the metaphor within the metaphor. We are to till and keep our gardens, right? After all, God said so. So while we have literal gardens and some figurative gardens (e.g., our spiritual lives, etc.), we all have the most metaphorical and important garden of all: Our wives.
It is our seed that the "soil" of our wives accepts. From that seed and God's good grace and blessing comes forth our ability to cooperate with God in the very act of creation, an amazing power when you think of it. So on this Father's Day, ask yourself, "What am I doing to 'till and keep' my garden, my wife? Am I showering her with affection (and not just of the sexual kind, for, like a garden, she will dry up and not produce or bear fruit if neglected)? Am I concerned for her spiritual life, and do I manifestly exhibit this concern in concrete, practical ways? Am I 'keeping' her, as in a castle's keep, as in guarding her? Do I ensure her basic needs are met, and not only material but spiritual and emotional, as well? Am I talking to her in her own particular 'love language'? If not, what must I do to make this garden thrive?"
After all, that's our job as husbands, isn't it? And the best way to be a good father is to be a good husband, is it not?
Keep in mind, I am not lecturing anyone more than I am myself. "Good advice, doctor. Why don't you take it?" is about the long and short of it. I recognize my duty to my spouse and family, and so often I do not choose them but ME. I choose what I want, what makes me feel good, what satisfies my desires and longings, bugger all what the wife and kids want.
Still, I recognize this, and I also know it's a huge problem for so many of my fellow men. And, sadly, some of them patently don't recognize this. We have to work against it, don't we? Or do you want to stand before God and explain why you blew off doing this work?
Have a Happy Father's Day, and let each of us dads use it not to get breakfast in bed or to be pampered, but to recommit ourselves to being better dads. Without this, the world will fail absent the grace and mercy of God.
What do you think?