I grew up on the outskirts of Evansville, Indiana. Our house was situated on a rural road, literally the last road within the city limits. We lived on one acre of land, immediately adjacent to my grandfather’s property. I loved him so, and had many amazing memories at his house, and on that land. Granddad always had a large garden, and I grew up working in it.
Later, after moving into the city, my dad and mom also gardened each year, even if the only items were tomatoes. So naturally, after getting married and buying our own little home, I had to give gardening a whirl. I borrowed my Granddad’s tiller, marked off the garden plot, and away I went.
Included in our garden would be items to make salads…tomatoes, lettuce, and radishes.
Cindy and I had never been solely responsible for a garden before, and truth be told, we didn’t have a clue as to what we were doing. But it was fun. Soon after planting the rows of radishes, we were excited to see green growth pop up out of the ground. Talk about lush growth! I could only imagine how great our homegrown salads would taste, especially topped with the zingy flavor of those radishes.
The days went by, and each afternoon I was out there, pulling weeds, and admiring this beautiful garden. Before we knew it, we were harvesting, and it was then that we realized just how clueless we had been. Discovery number one…our radishes looked more like tiny carrots! I learned that what I should have done was to thin out the crop, giving them room to grow. To me, the max amount of growth that I could see above the ground, the better. But to have normal radishes (that are round!), the crop had to be cultivated.
Discovery number two…we tried to eat those radishes, but I had never tasted such hot bitterness in all my life. They were impossible to eat. My other crops were OK – but my radishes were a complete bust.
I realized later that this experience contained some very practical applications. Had I thinned out those rows of radishes, my crop would have had a better outcome. And likewise, just like our garden, our hearts have to be carefully cultivated – at times, we need to give special attention to their condition. Some aspects in my life might need to be “culled” to enable me to live as I should.
I also learned that bitterness is a natural outcome of a neglected garden. The same is true in my heart, where a bitter root can grow, and become firmly established. And that bitter root will royally mess things up.
The writer to the Hebrews made it very clear in chapter 12, verse 15:
“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defile.”
(Heb. 12:15 ESV).
That kind of bitterness will do more harm than just causing a momentary nasty taste in our mouths…it can do real damage – the kind of damage that deeply impacts our lives, and those of our loved ones.
May God grace us, and give us a resolve to work diligently to cultivate our hearts to prevent such bitterness, and may we walk with courage, taking steps to make those needed changes in our lives.
Mike Gilland is Operations Manager for The Shepherd Radio Network, a group of radio stations in Florida that features the “Christian Teach/Talk” format. Mike hosts a daily talk radio show in the 2 PM hour called “Afternoons with Mike”, talking to local pastors and newsmakers. In Gainesville, Mike is heard on WTMN – 96.3 FM / 1430 AM. In Ocala, on WRZN – 103.5 FM / 720 AM. In addition to his broadcast experience, Mike spent 36 years in full-time ministry as a pastor and worship leader. As a guitarist, Mike performs at concerts, restaurants, private parties, etc. He is married to Cindy, the father of four grown children and grandfather to seven grandchildren.