I stretch and look up from lying down next to the little guy, getting him down for a nap. My eyes wander out the window to one of the most tranquil views in the world - acres of field with fawns frolicking, turkeys strutting, hay growing, and the line of woods beyond.
I love this view.
All except for one thing. That unkempt quarter acre of bramble. And not that far from my window, even!
How did it become unkempt originally, when it was first all lush and lovely field?
First, some building materials were set out there. Then, the grass grew, but it couldn’t be mown or hayed with the rest of the field - because things were there. Then, the property was empty for a while, and some trees started to grow, because it wasn’t mown or hayed. Then, when the critical point came where it needed to be bush hogged then or never, it couldn’t be - because the building materials were still there. And the items couldn’t be removed, because now there was bramble and tall grass and short trees and wild blackberries… and the materials couldn’t even be accessed for the density of the thicket.
Then, two more years of sitting and growing while the land was unoccupied again. It couldn’t even be bush hogged anymore. Too grown up.
And thus, the field turned into a thicket. A bit of neglect, and some time. That’s all it took.
I wish Paul would get around to clearing that.
“Why Paul?” I hear that prompting in my head, and know what it means. But I’ve got an excuse.
“Because, I can’t do it. The trees need to be cut, those thorn thickets have to be sorted through painstakingly to remove all sorts of building materials in there, then we’ll need to get the tractor over here and bush hog the shorter parts of the thicket. Plus, Ethan…”
“Why don’t you start and see what you can do during Ethan’s naps?”
Start with what?
“How about your loppers.” (The picture is almost laughable in my mind. The entire thicket, and little me, with a pair of loppers in my hand.)
But the thought doesn’t go away. Why wait for someone else to start what you could start?
So it happens that I approach the quarter acre of bramble, building materials, and stout saplings, with a single pair of loppers in my hands, and take the first snip.
A couple weeks later of off and on Ethan-nap-time work, hubby help, and the nephew’s monster mower, much of the ground has been cleared. Painstaking clipping, hauling, burning, and removing the unearthed metal and wood and block.
Then, two weeks of busyness and no work on the thicket. And when I look next, lo! those blackberries and weeds are growing up again, quick and agile. The grass was choked out by the thicket for the past several years, and where there is no grass - bramble and weeds grow unchecked. The arriving peace is broken up by aggressive, vigorous, opportunistic weeds, e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.
I’m annoyed. “Love!!! Tell Kaden to mow these weeds down just as short as can be! They’re already growing up like nobody’s business and I’m. not. going. to. clear. this. again!!!!!”
That’s when the lesson lands, dropped out of a hand of love and left in a quarter acre of bramble for me to dig out by the sweat of my brow and the scratching of thorns and crawling of ticks. Something I’ve known before, but needed to be reminded of… again.
It is so much harder to reclaim territory than to keep it clear and beautiful.
When we allow un-Christlike debris to land on the field of our minds rather than keeping everything captive to the obedience of Christ, brambles grow.
When we allow habitual patterns of thought that aren’t reflective of holy Love, grace gets choked out.
The early steps are easy: the little compromises in the thought life, the brief dwellings on that which is not true, pure, lovely, of good report, full of virtue and praise, the permitting of internal agitation for what that person said, did, didn’t do. The harboring of unforgiving thought, the judgmental attitude, the criticism. The meditation on those things which have nothing to do with eternity…
But, “in the life of the true Christian there are no nonessentials.” *
Thickets can grow. And they grow remarkably fast. In the soul, as out of it.
And when you finally work to clear that mental land, my! It is work. And after it’s cleared, all those opportunistic weeds try to fill in the space that has been cleared. (Matt. 12:43-45). The grass of grace and submission to the Word does not grow back overnight.
What constant monitoring and discipline is needed, just to reclaim that which could have been kept beautiful, if simple maintenance had been followed!
Ugh. I am reminded -
“The reason it is so difficult for men and women to live religious lives is because they do not exercise the mind unto godliness. It is trained to run in an opposite direction. Unless the mind is constantly exercised in obtaining spiritual knowledge and in seeking to understand the mystery of godliness, it is incapable of appreciating eternal things because it has no experience in that direction. This is the reason why nearly all consider it uphill business to serve the Lord.”**
So that’s the thicket lesson. And I’m glad of the reminder. Glad of the holy Hand that has pointed out, again, the new or old thickets growing in my mind. Glad that grace can reclaim even the worst thicket. And those areas that are reclaimed… They must be cherished and guarded as the treasure of grace that they are.
“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
**2 T 189.1