This week I took the Conan-the-Barbarian approach to ridding my garden of weeds. I leveled everything by wielding my “grass whip,” which is like a battle axe for weeds. Done in a morning.
This is a difference from earlier years, when we took several weeks pulling each weed out by hand. But I learned that new weeds replace the ones you pull up because weed seeds are always present in any soil. Instead, you can cut everything down for a new start and cover the ground to keep them away.
The Holy Spirit often calls us to take a Conan-the-Barbarian approach to sin. Paul says that the Holy Spirit leads to a “new creation”–the old is gone, he says, and the new has come (2 Cor 5:17). The fire of the Spirit represents the all-consuming fire of Sinai that in the past only Moses could approach. We embrace this fire by letting the Spirit consume anything that isn’t of God.
This is why we have Ember Days at the end of Pentecost week. Ember Days, you remember, are quarterly days of penitence and fasting. That may seem to be inconsistent with the celebratory weak of Whitsuntide, but it’s consistent with the purification of the Spirit. This is a good time to fast or abstain from a favorite food, take some cold showers, and then rid your life of distractions. Do whatever it takes to recommit you whole self to the Gospel and let nothing get in the way. In other words, like Conan, you can take indiscriminate violence to anything that opposes God.
At other times, you can be reflective and pull out one weed of sin at a time, but this can also lead to analysis paralysis. Like a garden, the seeds of temptation are always present–you pull out a weed, and it’s replaced by another. So like my garden this week, you might need a re-boot. Do whatever it takes to say you want to rid your life of all sin, and then whack away. That’s the purifying power of Pentecost.