I took on the neighbor’s wild blackberry vines – and almost lost the battle.

Our house is backed up to a green space, a swampy conservation area full of trees, land that thankfully will never be developed into homes. But as beautiful as that area is, it has a mind of its own. Most of the wild bushes are well behaved and pretty much stay on their side of the property line. However, the wild blackberry vines (and their other vine cousins) aggressively swoop and sweep into our yards with no regard for a survey map. 

I have been vigilant over the last 22 years to do weekly battle with the pesky invaders. But the house next door is a rental so the encroachment is taking over the yard. Because I like our neighbors, I assisted by gathering all the necessary hand and power tools, sighted a straight line at the property’s edge and waded in. 

All that to say, the vines almost won – not because they are smarter or stronger but simply because I had a poor strategy. And herein lies the message.

As much as I tried to be attentive and avoid coming near the sticker-laden vines, one or two would invariably grab my shirt. I would try to just pull away; the thorn would penetrate deeper. I would twist to force it to release its grip; six more thorns would hook on my shirt. As I turned the opposite way, a vine I had not seen would howl in delight as it sunk its thorns into my neck (no, really, it howled!). The scars on my arms are a result of that type of reaction to the first prick of the vine.

Finally, I would come to my senses. The more I struggled, the more the vine could inflict pain. The key was to just stand still, calmly look at the places the vine had me, and slowly release the thorns one at a time. (Thankfully this entire cycle only happened three times before I finished the task.)

Last week a woman came for a follow up ministry session. Since I had last seen her, she had quit her job (where she had worked 50-60 hours a week) and had gone to visit friends for a month. She told me of the incredible realization she had during her walks and talks with God those four weeks. The Lord revealed to her that she had been working harder, faster, longer in an attempt to free herself of certain pain and fears – and that strategy had only served to entangle her to the point of despair and increased pain. She was excited to share with me that “the key was to just stand still, calmly look at the places the vine had me, and slowly release the thorns one at a time.”

Folks, sometimes the best thing we can do is “be still and know that I am God.”

Pastor Jim 

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