When we first bought our house, it had been sitting vacant for almost a year and a half. The flower beds in the front were a hot mess. There was an overgrowth of vines that crawled across the sidewalk leading up to the door. The weeds had taken over any ornamental plantings and were 2 to 3 feet high. The neglect of any type of maintenance was obvious. It was apparent to anyone with eyes that there was a lot of work that needed to be done.
When I started working on clearing it all away, I started with the big stuff first. As I worked my way down to the smaller weeds, the work began to get more and more tedious. There were times in which all the little green shoots seemed overwhelming, like there was no end to them and I would never get done. But I finally got them all cleared out and the surface was nice, rich, dark compost.
About a week later, I saw some shoots coming up from a place where I cleared away one of the big bushes. The shoots were coming up because I didn’t dig the plant up by the root. So, I commenced to dig it out. It was hard work, but I finally managed to get it all. A few weeks later, I noticed a few green shoots here and there, randomly dispersed on the surface of the soil. I didn’t have time to weed the bed, so I left them, intending to get them later. As the weeks passed, I walked past the bed at least two times a day, noticing the increase in the green shoots, each day telling myself I would work on it tomorrow. What started out as a few green shoots, were now taking back over my flower beds. Besides that, there were several vines that had begun to grow again that I thought I had removed the first time I cleaned the bed out.
So once again, I worked on the seemingly endless little green shoots that had turned into significant sized weeds. And once again, I pulled up the vines. After a few weeks, the vines and the green shoots reared their ugly heads again. This time I cleared them away as soon as I saw them and it was a lot less labor intensive than the other two times. I also added more mulch to the beds. Because of the mulch, it took a lot longer for any of the green shoots and vines to appear again, but eventually they reappeared. No matter what I do, the vines and green shoots will eventually reappear. The only way to keep them out, is to do regular maintenance.
The spiritual applications of my flower bed are the same for any of us. Whenever we go for a significant amount of time without Bible study and seeking God’s presence, we get an overgrowth of the thorns and thistles of the world. The neglect of any type of maintenance is obvious, and it is apparent with anyone with eyes that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. If we go long enough, the roots grow large enough and deep enough to where they are difficult to remove: roots of bitterness, rebellion, resentment, lust, worldliness, addiction and pride, to name a few. Cutting off these types of issues at the surface will only cause them to shoot back up later. They must be taken out by the root.
Likewise, once we get to the point in our spiritual maturity to where we have overcome the big stuff, but are now working on all the little flaws within our own character, it can seem overwhelming and tedious. It can seem like there is no end to our own imperfections. But eventually, you get to a point to where you can see more of the rich, dark soil of a fruitful, obedient heart. But just like my flower beds, the vines of our fallen nature and the little green shoots from the weeds of our flawed perspective will appear again. And if we neglect the personal maintenance of Bible study and seeking God’s presence, they will eventually begin to grow deeper roots and spread, and we will find ourselves starting all over again. Until Christ returns, no matter what we do, the vines and shoots will eventually reappear. And just like my flower beds, the only way to keep them out, is to do regular maintenance.
“The seeds that fell among the thorns are those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by the worries, riches, and pleasures of this life, and their fruit does not mature. But the seeds on good soil are those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, cling to it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:14,15)
“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is tended, receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless, and its curse is imminent. In the end it will be burned.” (Heb 6:8)
“The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” (Gal 6:8,9)