By 9:30 a.m., I had weed whacked the entire dog yard. My shoulders and back were stiffening up. The temperature had climbed into the 90s. The last thing I wanted to do was go back out into the heat mid-day and attack the blackberry bush(es).

But what I wanted less was to go another day with them continuing to grow and spread.

When my daughter and I had a falling out, I found myself hurt and angry more than just a bit. Suddenly, I had a lot of angry energy and the adrenaline surged into my aching muscles…I didn’t feel any pain. I plugged my iPod into my ears (nothing but worshipful music wafting into my head) and began my work.

As I began on the perimeter of the briar patch, God’s Spirit went to work on my heart. It was like with each rotation of the nylon string at the end of my “weapon” slicing out against the plant infestation, God’s Spirit sliced at my resolve. I could hear the Holy One…”Child…isn’t this like what *you* allow in your life? The seduction of the ‘sweet,’ the prideful way you are enamoured and choose to believe that ‘this won’t affect’ you? You thought that the ‘little blackberry bush’ would produce sweet fruit and not demand so much of you in return…didn’t you? And now it owns your yard. It rules, doesn’t it? Who would have thought?”

God showed me that I had made little compromises–even when it came to the anger I was allowing in my life right then. But so often, something appears (like the ‘little blackberry plant’) to offer promise of a reward of some kind. Maybe instant gratification. Maybe yet in the future. With this promise there is a minimization as to the consequences or cost. Who would have thought that the “harmless” little desire for sweet fruit (no less!) would result in a bramble that would take over the yard!

The Spirit revealed to me that occasionally I would even assault these little compromises in my life–conviction that things were getting “out of control” would cause me to come at it with my spiritual “weed whacker.”

Without really rooting it out, without digging down deeply, like with the blackberries, all I was really doing was a temporary fix. If I leave my blackberry mess down there on my hillside without a follow up…without more done to prevent its regrowth, chances are all I have really done is provide MORE of what is needed for MORE proliferation of the plant in my yard.

Last November (for instance) during a retreat for 3 days where time alone with God showed me things I needed to root out of my life with an overly full schedule, I didn’t apply follow up treatments. I provided, in essence, “short-term canopy reduction.” Yes, the appearance is that of “Well, that has been taken care of!” But the truth is, for blackberries and sin, assaulting it this way…”In many cases…stimulates the formation of suckers from lateral roots and induces branching.” The result is, in time, MORE of the same!

This reminds me of Hebrews 12:15:

See to it that no one misses the grace of God
and that no bitter root grows up
to cause trouble and defile many.

My plan now for the blackberry brambles is NOT to rest on my so-called laurels and assume that I have taken care of it. In fact, I assume that I have only provided the way for it to thrive! I will *follow* UP the work done yesterday. I will rake the pieces, I will spray (ugh) anything that yet remains in the ground…and, hopefully, when we have a California Department of Forestry declared day for burning, have my burn permit in place and burn whatever is left.

If this bramble wasn’t on our leech field I *would* rototill as well…but I can’t do that. This blackberry bush (if it had a brain) was very clever about where it settled…I can’t rototill it without affecting the leech field which also probably gives this blackberry the moisture it needs to thrive. It is protected there in some ways. Just like sin sets up residence in subtle ways…insidious yes, but sometimes protected or even cherished and nurtured in a corner of our lives. From that place of protection it appears harmless enough…and before you know it, it has taken over the entire life.

The lessons in the brambles showed me that I need to approach sin in my life with a same aggressive multi-facted approach. I must not just assault it head on, but I must follow up…like saturating any remnant with herbicide, I must saturate my life with God’s Word. With the blackberries NOTHING will be given sympathy and allowed to remain. Likewise, I must not allow one single solitary shred of sin to remain. It must be destroyed.

A part of me feels badly for the quail who have nested under the protection of the brambles in the past. Their thicket is gone. But I must not allow this “false compassion” to lure me to compromise. It MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO GO ON.

Like the blackberry bush(es) took over the yard intended for something else, so too will sin not “behave” and stay in the place I hope it will…it will also send out shooter roots and suckers and branches…and it will take over if I allow it.

Song of Solomon 2:15 says:

Catch for us the foxes,
the little foxes that ruin the vineyards,
our vineyards that are in bloom.

It is the little foxes, the little compromises that spoil the garden of God in our lives. Let us refuse to allow these “little compromises.” No matter what they promise…sweet fruit that is “good for you,” or even something more, I will choose to be mindful that I must remain wholly devoted to God and His purposes in my lives.