When we first moved into our home, the trees behind our house were a thick, brilliantly green wall that blocked our view of any other house.
When autumn arrived, the structure underneath all of that green was exposed.
Examining the trees up close, it was apparent that several of them were in really bad shape.
Parasitic vines not only wrapped tightly around several trees but also had started to grow horizontally to reach more trees.
At their trunks were thick, twisty vines shooting up from the ground, killing almost everything, while manipulating its arms around what didn’t die right away.
I knew I had to cut down the vines or the trees would die. I also needed to pull the vine’s root system up or it would immediately grow back.
Because the vines had been allowed to stay attached for so long, the trees had started to grow around vines. It appeared as if the trees were trying to co-exist with the parasite.
On some trees, I actually had to use a crowbar to pry the vines away from the branches. Some were so overcome by the vines, the entire tree had to be cut down.
Once the vines were uprooted, cut down, and unwrapped from each branch, what I saw was heartbreaking.
The trees were free from the parasite, but it left rotting dark grooves and stripes, four inches wide in some places, where the vines once were.
Originally, I saw a beautiful green forest, but in reality it was a forest of slowly dying trees in need of rescuing.
It took seeing the trees in the winter to expose how unhealthy the trees really were and what needed to be done to help them grow to be healthy again.
If I had ignored vines, it would have eventually killed every tree, completely destroying our little piece of the forest.
Temporarily, the trees may now look thinned out and the greenery may not be as thick as last year.
However, they have the ability to grow back bigger, stronger, and healthier than they ever would’ve been able to before. They may even produce new saplings that will grow big enough for my future grandchildren to climb.
Our lives are like these trees.
James 1:2-4 reminds us of something we often forget:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (NIV).
God sometimes allows us to go through a season of winter where everything seems to be wrong, difficult, and painful. But it’s often during these times that expose our weaknesses or reveal what needs to be pruned from our lives.
Then, it’s our choice to either be bitter or use the opportunity to cut away what’s choking the life out of God’s plan for us.
If sin is allowed to fester, we will be like those vines in my yard: a parasitic stumbling block to the trees (lives) around us.
We tend to focus so much on surface-level solutions instead of pulling the vines up from the root. In addition, if we don’t get rid of small vines that begin to grow and manipulate, they become bigger and harder to get rid of over time.
Eventually, they will take over and destroy us and damage those around us.
Uprooting vines of sin from our lives is hard work and often a painful process. Even vines that were planted by someone else need to be pried from our lives in order to continue to grow in our relationship with Jesus.
I admit, it’s tough and sometimes agonizing to uproot the results from someone else’s actions.
It’s equally humbling, and sometimes emotionally brutal, to admit when we have some “spring cleaning” or pruning to do in our own heart and mind.
When the trimming is finished for the season, we may end up with stripes where the vines used to be, especially if they were there a long time. But that’s ok. They are just battle scars of where God has brought us through a season of winter.
Now, use your testimony of stripes and how Jesus saved you from vines, to witness to others about how He was striped for the world, waiting to rescue any who choose to surrender their lives to His unconditional love.