Our backyard neighbors recently had a large tree removed from their property.
They had replaced their fence surrounding their swimming pool, so I suppose the tree needed to be uprooted so the new fence could be installed.
It worked out perfectly for us, though, as the tree had long been leaning over the old fence on to our property, dropping plenty of leaves and dead branches.
A more serious threat, however, was a vine that was spreading ever so subtly from the tree across the fence, latching on to a beautiful maple tree on our lawn.
Of course, I had never noticed the vine until a good friend pointed it out a little while back, when he and his family were over for dinner.
We were playing with the kids in our back yard and appreciating the shade under the neighbors’ tree when he remarked the long vine crawling over on to our maple tree, starting to choke it like a parasite.
My friend then warned me about the vine, stressing the need to cut it before it continued to spread and wreak havoc on our maple tree, sucking the life out of it over time.
So, not long thereafter, I climbed up a ladder with a saw in hand and, like a surgeon, proceeded to remove the vine as if I were amputating a patient’s leg ravaged by bacteria.
Thankfully, such a chopping off of the vine preserved the life of our maple tree, encouraging it to continue thriving, rather than dying a gradual death.
Recalling that time got me thinking, however: what vines do we have in our lives that are slowly growing and suffocating us, preventing us from developing in healthy fashion?
Perhaps it is an ever-so-innocent temptation for a teenager from a friend to skip a class or shoplift some candy from a store.
Maybe it’s a flirting conversation with someone at work who gently and suggestively passes along his or her phone number at a time where you might be experiencing some frustrations in your own romantic relationship.
It could be that life has just gotten so busy for you and your family that your faith practice has fallen by the wayside. Whereas you and your parents used to go to church weekly when you were younger, you now find yourself rarely bringing your own children, given all of the preoccupations and commitments consuming your attention nowadays.
Much like the vine stifling our maple tree, if we are not careful in curbing dishonest or unrighteous behaviors, we risk the corruption of our character and the slow erosion of our relationship with God – and, by extension, others and ourselves.
Bit by bit, we can easily squeeze God and His teachings out of our lives, directing our focus to potentially and increasingly destructive practices.
For example, while it may seem far-fetched, skipping a high school class could put someone on a path that leads to smoking, underage drinking or an undesired teen pregnancy.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that flirting with a colleague could eventually find someone in an unpleasant and costly marital breakup.
While a family used to pray each night, eat meals together regularly and attend church each Sunday, life could quickly become so distracting that they drift in different directions, losing an appreciation for God and one another in the process.
So, like any experienced arborist or gardener would tell you, occasional pruning of our life trees is essential in order to avoid the growth or spreading of any undesired vines.
But as villainous as this reflection might depict them, are all vines destructive?
Should we chop them all off at their very sight, or is there one vine we should actually cling to and whose life we should promote?
As Christians, we know Jesus to be the true vine, the root of all life that is good.
Our Lord assures us that, so long as we abide in Him, He will cleanse us and keep us strong as His branches. (John 15:5)
Leaning on Jesus in all that we do can ensure fruitful living and keep us on a path of prosperity.
With God as our guide, we can feel confident when encountering evil vines looking to infiltrate our lives.
Instead of falling prey to them as they strive to steer us away from our Heavenly destiny, with Jesus, we remain nurtured on a trail bringing us through the forest of Paradise.