Living in the country on 18 acres of land, surrounded by trees, requires regular attention to yard work. It takes more than weekly lawn mowing to “beat back the forest.” Low hanging branches can block our view and make lawn mowing a challenge. After Drew ducks under or dodges them enough times, he grabs the saw or branch lopper and cuts them off.
Scrub bushes and small trees take root on their own, planted by the birds that drop seeds from digested berries, or seeds scattered by the wind. God’s plan for the earth to reproduce its own, works extremely well.
Then there are the large vining plants with stalks up to two inches in diameter that grow up and entwine themselves around anything in its path. Left alone, they will choke out other vegetation. The only way to get rid of them is to stay on top of things and regularly cut them off at the base or dig them out–a very tedious task.
It’s impossible in the limited time we have to consistently maintain a neat, orderly appearance. Trees die, or the wind knocks them down before Drew gets around to cutting them down—either way, the branches and larger chunks he cuts up need to be hauled away.
Even though it’s a lot of work, we love living in the country and fortunately, we enjoy a rustic, casual feel to our “ponderosa.” But when the “forest” threatens to take over, it can feel overwhelming. The recent spring rains and cooler temperatures delayed the work, but not the growth of the lawn and the weeds. By the time we got to it, things were that much harder to deal with.
Neglecting our spiritual side has much the same effect in our lives. Letting good habits (such as Bible reading, prayer, or church attendance) slide, allows our bad habits and/or sin to dominate. We begin to lose sight of God’s saving grace, his loving care, and provisions. This can happen even if we maintain an outward appearance of doing Christian activities.
The book of Hebrews warns in chapter 12 to “strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress.” The author admonishes us to “keep our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.”
We get weary in our efforts to “beat back the forest,” but when we’ve opened up an area again, it feels like a breath of fresh air. I feel smothered by the encroaching over growth of trees and shrubs, but sometimes I don’t realize this until the heaviness is gone, replaced by openness, light, and space.
I don’t feel the spiritual oppression right away either. Like our “forest,” it sneaks up on me. Then I wonder where the joy and sense of freedom went.
I’m glad God “knows our frame and remembers that we are but dust.” Psalm 103:14 (NKJV). That comforts me. He knows our weakness, and so the writer in Hebrew 12:12 (NLT) reminds us to “take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.”
Drew and I don’t want to leave our land in a tumbled down, overgrown mess for our children to cope with, so we keep fighting back. The spiritual legacy and example we leave our children, grandchildren, and any, who follow, is even more important. And so we “keep on keeping on!”