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The Rowdy Garden of the Soul


A soul attuned to God can bring unbridled beauty and love into the world.

It’s July, and I’m beginning to suspect that any control I had over my garden has slipped away with the last of the spring bulbs.

Now, what were once smart edges on the borders have blurred to a no-man’s land of grass and scattered mulch.  I’ve traded a civilized 15 minutes of daily weeding for a strange cycle of weeks of aggressive neglect, followed by several sweaty, heat-delirious hours of violent ripping and tearing.

The cool, well mannered flowers of spring: delicate pansies, stately lilacs, and charming bleeding hearts have all faded in the heat and humidity.  Instead, I’ve now got tall, wild, unruly things—bristly coneflowers, wild and weedy coreopsis, and furiously fertile, ephemeral daylilies, all which have turned my yard into a riot of colors and textures, unabashed in its boisterousness.  

Nope.  I’ve lost all control over this thing, and I’ve come to realize I probably never had any to begin with. All I can do is hold on until October, when the killing frost hits and all I have left to deal with are mums and pumpkins.

It makes me think of the journey of a soul toward God, this progression from trim and seemingly under control, to a great whirling storm of life and growth. There are those beginning days, when the soul finally responds to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and seeds that had been planted long ago burst into bloom. The soul marvels at the beauty, that what was once rocky and barren is now so full of life.  How lovely! How delicate!  How tidy!

As the soul continues to move towards God, the graces flow, and life continues to thrive. Then comes The Moment. That awful moment during our conversion (and in this life, we’re all converts) when things stop being tidy and well mannered. When suddenly you find yourself called to do something wild and untamed. Maybe it’s answering the call to a religious vocation, or adopting a child, or offering forgiveness to that one person you never thought you could. Whatever it is, it is the moment when you realize there are wild things in your soul, beautiful rowdy things that resist being tamed.

There is a gnawing suspicion that you can no longer ignore: you are not in control. You’re now part of something that is too large to be contained, too wild to be subdued, and too beautiful to turn your back on.

Because we are small creatures of dust, and cannot grasp the enormity of God, He made Himself a man to help us find a point of contact. But there is always the tendency to try and further domesticate God, to make Him small and safe, and manageable, and tidy.

All anyone has to do is try and keep a garden in July to know this is false.  If a small, cultivated patch of earth can run so riotous with growth and beauty, think of what our souls do in the presence of God.

Cari Donaldsonis the author ofPope Awesome and Other Stories: How I Found God, Had Kids, and Lived to Tell the Tale. She married her high school sweetheart, had six children with him, and now spends her days homeschooling, writing, and figuring out how to stay one step ahead of her child army. She blogs about faith and family life at

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