After working a while, I meandered back up towards the house and strolled along the split-rail fence that borders our yard from the wooded embankment. While I love just about everything in nature (except ticks), I loathe these thorny vines that grow up right alongside everything beautiful. It seems like they grow 10 times faster than anything else and they definitely wreak havoc to your skin if you’re caught unawares.
Clippers in hand, I took to snipping away the thorny sprouts that try to ‘jump the fence,’ because as Barney Fife says ‘you’ve got to nip it in the bud.’ About halfway through, I looked up and noticed some white flowers starkly contrasting against all the winter brown yet entangled in vines. I hopped the fence and started cutting away at the stalks one at a time. Four or five cuts and then I would wrap my leather-gloved hand around their bases and walk backwards, hop the fence and pull them free them from the mass. Four more cuts then repeat. 45 minutes, sweat-soaked and a few scratches later, I stepped away to see a beautiful sandplum tree that had been hidden beneath those vines. I have walked past that section for three years now and never noticed that tree growing underneath all that weight.
As I worked, my mind kept repeating a verse I had memorized long ago. “Let us strip off the sin that so easily entangles us.” Hebrews 12:1. My thoughts overwhelm me of what that truly means: freedom. God keeps impressing freedom on me this year. Revealing ways I am still so easily entangled in thoughts and habits that keep me tripped up or weighed down. Standing back and viewing that beautiful tree, I can’t help but think of how much will it grow this year now that it’s free. What joy and hope it brings me now that I can see its flowers.
Having so much of life turned upside down right now, those areas of entanglement can easily overwhelm us. Is it fear or anxiety? Is it over eating banana bread or binge watching good (or bad) shows? Is it obsessively cleaning? Is it crafting or projects or distractions? Is it anger or frustration with those in your home? Maybe, it’s depression because you feel all alone. I don’t know what trips you up or what has you weighed down but I know you can be set free.
Jesus offers hope in the midst of fear. He offers love when there’s anger and frustration. And he offers peace when it feels like the world is in chaos. He has a plan for each one of us. Within that plan you are created to grow and bloom and bear fruit even when it still feels like winter.
Taking out those vines was hard work. It wasn’t without pain, even the tree lost a lot of blooms and some branches from all the tugging and stripping away. But most of all, the tree couldn’t do it without me, it needed a savior. I needed Jesus to set me free from my death penalty of sin and I still need Him today to set me free from all that entangles me. So while the world stops and my perfectionist brain screams ‘work,’ my heart is choosing to yield to the loving hands that are setting me free.
So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good. Then the lion said, ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ -Eustice (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1