The goal: a lawn free of dandelions. The tools: a trowel and bucket. The schedule: a little each day.

This has been my anti-dandelion plan over the past several days. And today, if you drove past my house and peeked into my yard, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single dandelion. But even as I write, I can practically see the strong, persistent little plants spreading their roots, regenerating their stems, and reaching heavenward. Tomorrow, there will be more dandelions to dig.

Last week, as I put trowel to earth, extracting the hearty little plants one at a time with as much of their root intact as possible, I consciously thought of all the lessons I could learn from such a chore. Persistence, for one. Will I be dedicated to completely rid my lawn of dandelions by pulling them one at a time? Principle. Will I take the easy way out and just spray my lawn with chemicals, even though my conscience is pricked at just the thought of it? Perseverance. Will I continue on in the job even though my back hurts and I’m tired?

Then, after a few days into the job, the metaphor went deeper. Each dandelion became sin in my life, and if I didn’t continue to rid the lawn of the parasites — or my life of sin, then sin would take over. I thought about the implications of my neighbors’ dandelions, even if my own lawn were clear. And about the consequences of letting just one dandelion going unchecked.

I continued each day, setting small goals, digging and thinking.

Yesterday, for the first time, my work seemed close to paying off. My lawn was beginning to look dandelion-free. But as I set to work, hoping to eradicate the last few plants, I got the news that my uncle had had a massive stroke and is fighting for his life. After hanging up the phone, I began digging with greater fervor, fighting the enemy in my lawn as I wish I could fight all of life’s enemies.

I named some of the dandelions illness and suffering, and dug them up with intensity and grief. A few dandelions became cancer, and I felt personally affronted by their presence in my lawn. I sunk the shovel deeper and harder into the earth to get to the very bottom of their roots. I looked around and realized that after days of work, still I was surrounded by joblessness, death, broken relationships, shattered dreams, and capitalistic greed. I dug and dug, confronting problem after problem, becoming addicted to the power of the trowel in hand.

My bucket was overflowing; still I kept digging. Just digging and tossing, since there was no proper place to dispose of these sadnesses and sorrows. Then, I became aware that the sun was setting, and it was time to stop. As I began to clean up, I stooped and dug one more. When I started walking toward the garage, I found another to dig. It was hard to stop fighting until I realized that my hand was stinging. When I looked down, I nearly cried. I had wounded myself trying to save the world. But it wasn’t enough.

All day today, my wounded hand has reminded me that my efforts are not only insufficient to save the world, they can’t even save myself. My best efforts to persist and persevere will too often fail. I’ll never be principled enough to rid my own heart of sin. And left to myself, the sorrows of the world will overwhelm me. All I can do is hurt myself.

But the wounded hands of my Jesus are entirely sufficient. He was wounded for my transgressions, and by his stripes we are healed.