Today I went out to begin some much needed yard work. Those who know my gardening ability, (see "I Didn't Mean to Kill Them") are probably cringing right about now, but it was becoming obvious some work needed to be done. My box hedges were starting to look more like Walmart bags than boxes so I set to work.
I began the tedious job of shaping my box hedge with the manual clippers....I'm not sure I should be trusted yet with power tools. Things were going quite smoothly when I happened upon a dead branch. I of course removed it only to discover my "box" hedge now had a hole in it. That is also when I discovered the vine.....such a pretty little fern type of a vine was growing in my hedge. I pulled on it and it seemed to grow right before my eyes. There seemed to be no end to this "delicate" little fern. I don't remember ever seeing this type fern in my yard before Hurricane Katrina, but now it seemed to be popping up everywhere. I had to wonder if this had played some small part in killing that particular area of my hedge.
As I worked to remove the plant, I had a flashing image of the Kudzu we had seen on our trip back from the mountains. It seemed to be everywhere, covering trees, poles, wires, even houses. For those unfamiliar with Kudzu, it is an invasive species of plant that was brought over from Asia to feed cattle and control erosion. The problem with Kudzu is that in North America it has no real predators or enemies and it grows unchecked. Once it begins to take root, it is almost impossible to get rid of. It grows over native species of plants and trees and literally sucks the life from them by cutting them off from the sun. Kudzu has been known to cover entire houses so that they are no longer even recognizable.
There are a couple of parallels that I thought of with my little vine, kudzu, and my spiritual life. That vine, and kudzu, in their proper place are fine....the problem comes when they are introduced into a place where they don't belong....then, instead of being beautiful they are destruction. In our lives, this can be something good that simply takes the place of something else, or it can be when we try to be someone other than who we were created to be. I know I've been guilty of doing this in my life. Perhaps it is that I see something that works for someone else so I try to do it just like them. I try to make their "call" my own. The problem with that is it tends to choke out the life in me and makes what I've been called to do ineffective. I have to remember that I was created for a purpose and that it may not be the same as what someone else was called to do. The Bible puts it sort of like this in 1 Corinthians 12: 4- 6: "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. " While I can learn from others, I can't be someone else, I can only be who God has called me to be. Trying to do otherwise only frustrates me and chokes the life out of the gift He has given me.
The second parallel may make even more sense. That pretty little fern seemed innocent enough at first, but given time to take root it seemed to be taking over. Sin is a lot like that. At first, it doesn't seem like any big deal. It's just a little thing, even pleasant...but given time it takes root and doesn't want to let go. It becomes like that kudzu and tries to cut you away from the Son. Just cutting it down doesn't really work. If the roots are allowed to stay, it will rise up over and over to try and gain back its place. It would have been so much easier if it had never gotten the chance to gain a foothold, but now that it has, you've got to deal with it. Ignoring it won't make it go away....it will only grow until the original plant is bound up, weak and ultimately destroyed.
There was still one more lesson to learn from my gardening adventure. I moved from my box hedge to my rose bushes only to discover the "fern" had taken root by them as well and wrapped around almost every branch. My roses didn't take to the trimming as well as the hedge had. They "bit" me almost every step of the way with their thorns. I had to wonder if I do that to others who try and help me. Do I bite and snap at those who love and care enough about me to try and de-tangle me from things that hold me back? I finally managed to get the rose free from the vine, but the roots of that vine are still there. To get rid of them, I might have to completely move the rose and risk killing it. It's going to take someone who knows more than I do to get rid of this weed. I have a feeling this is simply an area I will have to work to constantly keep in check....sort of like areas weakness in my life.
I'd like to say that the pruning process is over for my plants, but I know this is just the beginning. Really beautiful lawns take a lot of work. If I truly want these plants to be beautiful and fruitful, I'm going to have to prune again, and again, and again. As long as they are alive, they will be going through the pruning process....sort of like me.