As part of my horticultural studies, I spent several months interning at a botanical garden near my home. Each day was different as I and another intern assisted the Head Gardener with whatever he needed to get done. I found the majority of our activities to be interesting, educational and, for the most part, enjoyable. However, one activity repeated every couple of weeks throughout the summer wasn’t much fun. That task? Removing leaves affected with early blight from the tomato plants. It was a rather tedious process which required us to dip the blades of our pruners into alcohol after every snip of an infected leaf. Why? To decrease the possibility of spreading the disease to other areas of the plant or to other plants entirely. In addition, we bagged up the diseased leaves and put them in the trash, not the compost bin, since blight spores can survive on plant debris, causing more problems later. Even though following the procedure took more time than clipping a succession of leaves with no dipping in between, it was worth it. It slowed the progression of the blight, enabling the tomatoes to survive and bear fruit.
Removing diseased leaves from a coneflower one evening this week reminded me of the great lengths we went to in our quest to protect the tomato plants. As is often the case when I’m working in my garden, my thoughts turned to spiritual parallels. Criticism, anger, gossip, complaining. They can be as contagious as any disease and every bit as deadly when it comes to relationships. How are we to keep from spreading the spores of negativity? Just as the alcohol cleansed the blades of the pruners, immersing ourselves in God’s Word can purify our thoughts and refine our intentions. In Philippians 4:8, Paul encourages us to think on things that are excellent and praiseworthy; whatever is noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. And in 2 Corinthians 10:5 he says we are to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Difficult? Absolutely! But the One who is making all things new took our infirmities upon Himself and heals us by His wounds that we might bear abundant fruit for His glory . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . . conditions others won’t mind catching.