The most gorgeous gardens started from seedlings surrounded with weeds, but a caring gardener plucks all the offenders from the rich soil and watches over his little ones. The gardener gives them life with water, prunes away dead leaves and branches, and harvests them when they’ve matured.
I’ve read through Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 several times throughout my life––in Sunday school, in devotionals, at camp, at Bible studies, and in my Bible classes at Biola. I’ve identified with most of these antitheses at some point in my life, but I resonated most with the second half of 3:2 during this difficult season in my life.
“a time to give birth and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to uproot;”
Upon first glance, it seems like the verse only discusses trying new things in life and getting rid of others, such as leaving an old job for a better job. However, one can also plant and uproot other things, ideas, or attitudes in their life.
This verse alludes to planting and harvesting practices. Spring signifies prosperity, vitality, and sowing seed while autumn signifies decay, failure, and death.
The state of my garden
Last spring, I experienced vitality and regrowth. I first became involved with Odyssey and became the Biola community’s editor-in-chief at the end of the summer. I enjoyed all the classes I took and finished the semester with a solid 4.0. I received more opportunities as a worship leader and started songwriting. One of my good friends who always has a shiny smile on her face inspired me to pray for joy each day. As a result, I always found a silver lining during any dark day.
My life flipped completely upside down when illness crept up in the summer and stole my joy.
I forced smiles onto my face. I no longer felt that delight I did during the two previous months. I was always in pain and instead of thanking God for the things that still went well, I became negative. Everything was going wrong and summer wasn’t turning out as I expected. I wanted to have fun with the kids I counseled instead of laying down in the afternoons and secluding myself because my sick body needed extra recharge time.
I still had some joy during those couple months, but my negative attitude kicked into high gear at the end of October when my gastritis became very severe. On top of that, I dropped a marble convection oven tile on my foot at work, broke my toe, had to have stitches, and was on crutches for two weeks. I lost most of my work hours for that time period and had to hobble around campus with a heavy bag full full of books and a laptop. My grades also suffered because exhaustion sapped all my motivation.
I was so fatigued one day that I barely made it back to my room after class. It took me twice as long as normal to hobble there because my body felt so limp. I walked into my room, sat down in front of my desk, dialed my parents, and cried for a good few minutes. I told them that I couldn’t endure that kind of pain anymore and that I wanted to drop out of school. Thankfully, I didn’t.
A new season
My roommate, Aili, actually planted the seed for my changed attitude, although I didn’t fully cultivate it until a couple months ago. She asked me why I feel like I must earn solid A’s and give so much time to every little thing. Our discussion helped me realize that I put unnecessary pressure on myself and hold unrealistic expectations, which resulted in disappointment. This disappointment turned into discontent with everything in my life.
My gastritis improved a bit between December and January, so my joy returned a bit. Over the next month, everything went back to the way it was in November. My gastritis actually became more severe and I found out I developed GERD on top of that. I not only had severe stomach pain, but I had horrible acid reflux on top of that. As a result, I ate less and less, which made my symptoms worse.
Despite my poor health, I pushed myself way too hard and sacrificed sleep in the name of good grades, which was a very poor choice. All the health problems climaxed in March and I developed severe anxiety because it seemed like nothing would ever get better. I lost hope in God’s healing touch and decided I was one of those people God would never heal. I became bitter and started distrusting my doctors because they could never find anything wrong with me. I was so tired from getting four hours of sleep each night for two weeks straight that I didn’t even know what I felt anymore. I had panic attacks every other day during this time because things spiraled out of control. Once again, I wanted to drop out of school and I actually met with my department chair to discuss how I could take a medical leave. I was so emotionally numb and hopeless that I no longer wanted to be alive and it scared the daylights out of me.
Planting and uprooting
Depression and anxiety were the two key wake up calls that let me know I needed to pluck certain behaviors from my life. My negative attitude was the first thing I’ve uprooted this year. I started writing down my anxieties in my journal and praying more. I confided in friends when things got tough instead of bottling it up inside and also started seeing a therapist to help me decipher my emotions. I tried pushing past disappointment and focused on living in the present instead of the future. I relinquished control of my life and let God take the reins.
The second thing I uprooted was my negative habits. I started getting more sleep and wouldn’t allow myself to stay up past 11 on the days I worked at 6:30 a.m. I got extra sleep on the weekends and gave myself time for meals instead of studying while eating. I took naps on days filled with classes and work. I went out with friends instead of sitting in my room and feeling bitter about everything.
The third thing I uprooted was my negative thoughts. I stopped punishing myself when I received anything less than an A on exams or assignments. I gave myself grace when I felt too tired to practice my flute or only felt like writing one article per week instead of two. I told myself it’s okay not to obsess over every last assignment and spend time on the projects that matter most. I stopped telling myself that I was worthless and never living up to my potential. I remembered that God does not create junk and that he’s proud of my accomplishments, even when I feel like I fall short.
I’m still removing these things from my life, but I planted a seed of joy, hope, and redemption that will ultimately grow into something greater as God cultivates it.
What are some negative attitudes, habits, or thoughts God has called you to remove from your life? What are some healthy perspectives you can plant and replace those with? Write these down and pray over them. Feel free to respond to this question in the comments below as well.