In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who discovered that someone had deliberately sown weeds into his beautiful wheat field. But rather than have his servants pull the bad stalks out of the ground and risk yanking up the good stalks along with them, he says, "Let both of them grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ?Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"
Usually that story is interpreted as a portrait of the end of time when the good people and the bad people will all be separated out into those destined for heaven or hell. I want to suggest the story could also point to a more positive truth; i.e., that none of us are very good at figuring out what's ultimately good and what's ultimately bad in life, and, therefore, we had better let God decide what stays and what goes lest we make a bigger mess of things than we already have.
I find great freedom in that truth. I am free from the burden of omniscience. In the final analysis, deciding what's a weed and what's wheat isn't mine to make. It's a burden I don't have to carry.
And so we enter the season of Lent?typically a time for examining our lives and identifying those areas that are displeasing to heaven. But if I read the parable in Matthew 13 correctly I have to be a bit humble about that endeavor. If I try too hard at making a separation between weeds and wheat I might just do more harm than good.
As you and I enter this Lenten season God is not asking us to fathom the mystery of right and wrong. Heaven is not looking over our shoulder to see if we have garnered the credentials necessary for righteous living. The angels are not holding their breath in anticipation of our answers to the test. All we need for this Lenten journey is a willingness to try. Leave the results to God. You might be surprised at what gets thrown into the fire and what makes it into the barn.
A woman named Janet was serving as a chaplain intern at Northwestern Memorial Hospital . She was there late one night when a young woman was brought into the emergency room from a terrible car accident. She was pronounced brain dead. The girl's mother responded by utterly shutting down emotionally. Several nurses and highly credentialed chaplains tried to talk with her. No response. So they asked student intern Janet to try. She didn't think she could do much when so many experts had struck out.
But she went into the room anyway and said, "My name is Janet. I have nothing to say to you. I have nothing to bring to you, or give to you. I have no answers for what has happened. I'm just here to tell you I'm sorry, and I care." There was another moment of terrible silence. Then the mother lifted her head and whispered, "Sit down and talk to me."
I'm glad Lent is here. Every so often I need to be reminded that I don't have all the answers. Thank God.