Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Vines (11/21/05)
TITLE: Noxious Nuisance Vines
By Sandra Petersen
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Boston ivy forms a luxurious tapestry on the outer walls of some brick and mortar buildings. In autumn, the chill air changes the lush green leaves to blazing red, a pleasing contrast to the brickwork. To grow on the wall, clinging ivy must penetrate the mortar with a network of tiny roots. If the mortar is not sound and is beginning to crumble, the roots can damage the wall. When winter comes and the temperatures alternate between thawing and freezing, the integrity of the wall is compromised. Cracks appear and over time can lengthen from water infiltration.
Some Christians allow a false image of self-righteousness to cover themselves. The outer man may have the appearance of everything proper but the integrity of the inner man has been damaged. In time, the “wall” cracks and becomes more vulnerable to outside pressures.
Poison ivy does not offer fruit or beauty. Universally, this vine is considered a nuisance by all but the deer that graze on its leaves and the birds that eat its berries. Most of the time, poison ivy forms a ground cover, but has been known to become a woody vine when close to an available tree. This ivy is known best for its ability to cause an unpleasant itchiness that can last three weeks. The leaves emit resins whenever anything comes into contact with them. This extremely potent resin can remain effective for a year or more. The sap is released when the plant is damaged in any way, even when burned. The only sure way to kill the plant is to dig up the roots completely while wearing protective gear over the hands, face, and body. The method of avoiding contact altogether is to watch for the plants’ characteristic “leaves of three.”
So, too, a Christian must have keen discernment to recognize the characteristics of temptation. The temptation that leads to sin must be uprooted by one wearing the armor of the Spirit. If the “plant” is not destroyed, it will spread quickly and abundantly. Temptation can be extremely uncomfortable, like an itch that cannot be soothed.
Wild blackberry vines, while offering a delicious fruit, can grow several feet a year and smother surrounding plants. Once, I persuaded my husband to go blueberry-picking in a place close to where I grew up. By a grassy road leading through a wooded area, we found both a thick groundcover of blueberry vines and blackberry brambles that grew as tall as a man. We were not prepared that day to do much blackberry picking, as we soon discovered. The largest, most luscious berries seemed to be hanging close to the center of the thicket. By the time we realized our folly, we had been pierced and scratched numerous times by the thorns. We vowed to return the next week wearing heavier clothing for protection. Blackberry pie and jam was our reward for braving the blackberry thicket.
As with poison ivy vines, blackberry vines are difficult to eradicate. One small root piece can propagate and develop into a new plant very quickly. The blackberry fruit is the only redeeming characteristic of this nuisance vine.
How many times has the “fruit of a vine” looked appealing to a Christian, so wonderful that he or she fails to notice the dangerous “thorns” protecting the “fruit” until too late. How many Christians enter the thicket unprepared and escape wounded?
As twigs and branches attached to the True Vine, we must learn how to avoid the vines that would strangle our Christian walk and smother our growth. We must stay firmly attached to Jesus, and then we will produce fruit in great abundance.
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