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Written by guest blogger and all around old soul, Kari Andrews

I sit here tapping out these words to the sound of rain and thunder. Yet another whisper of spring nipping at the skirts of winter. Spring never hurries to New England. But it is this same scarcity that lures me outside at even the slightest invitation. Daffodils push through the sod — they must be inspected. Birds singing in the morning light — they must have something to show me. So, we pull on mud boots and jackets, my littles and I, and find our way outside to inspect every seemingly lost corner of our kingdom. 

We walk around the yard and garden marveling that everything is still here, just as we left it before the cloak of cold and snow hid it away. And it doesn’t take long before I see all the work to do. Leaves to rake, garden beds to prep, and those vines. I could cuss about the vines. 

Our house is old. Colonial New England old. And I suppose the trees and the house have been standing here together all this time. I would buy a piece of property because of the trees before the house — for the trees take longer, you see. Anyone can build a house; only God and time can grow a tree. So, the trees are first, and the house is built quietly in their shade. 

A Cord of Three Strands

Our backyard is lined with big, old trees and I would like to say I love them. But these trees drive me crazy. We have these invasive vines that start small and innocent enough, but soon strangle and suffocate everything in their path. We’ve lived in this house for five years and I think I’ve stood at the window and glowered at those vines every single day since we moved in. 

So, this year I decided to do something about it; I got myself a pair of loppers and started lopping every vine in my path. It didn’t take long though, to realize what I’m up against. You know that verse about a cord of three strands not easily broken? Well the Bible doesn’t lie. 

We have vines wrapped around vines, vines running under the ground from one tree to another, vines so thick you must cut them with a chainsaw. And those big old trees in my backyard? Well they’re dying. We’ve spent the last two weekends cutting down and burning trees that have had the life choked out of them.

The Ties That Bind

I’m guessing you’re wondering by now why I’m telling you all of this. It’s because those cuss-worthy vines are teaching me something, something important about getting entangled. 

“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him– a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12 ESV

When these vines first show themselves above the ground, they’re nothing but thin shoots. You can clip or mow them down without any notice. Given a little time though, and they will wrap themselves in a choke hold around the closest living thing. Vine wraps around vine until even a sturdy tree has branches pulled to the ground. And given long enough, even the tree itself, rooted and grounded, will die. 

Nature and the Soul

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As I have hacked and chopped away at these vines, I’ve been thinking all the while about the things that might very well entangle me. What is it that seems small and innocent enough right now but will quietly wrap around my heart and mind to pull me down? Perhaps there are things I think I can control. Things I will uproot when I’m ready. Not realizing how quickly they grow or all the directions they might spread. Not knowing that removing a vine might also require removing a limb; losing a part of myself I never intended to. 

Nature often mirrors the soul. How many times does the Bible use nature to illustrate the state of the soul? Sheep, the wheat and the chaff, the grass, the sparrow, the lily — on and on it goes. When I go outside, I can’t help but see what nature illustrates: the things that would tempt and entangle me must be cut down. If I give them room, if I turn a blind eye, they will take hold and choke the life right out of me. 

Finding Life in Death

So often, I get things backwards. I think what kills will bring me life. And I think what brings life will kill me. I hold onto the vine wrapped around my neck because to let it go feels like too great a loss; I’ve forgotten what it’s like to breathe. I run from the truth that will set me free, thinking it is the thing that will tie and bind me. 

But again, using nature to illustrate the soul, Jesus reminds us — sometimes we must seemingly die in order to taste life. 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

John 12:24 ESV

Am I willing to cut the cords of sin, trusting true life is found on the other side just as Jesus says? 

Cutting the Cord

I’m not done with the vines in my yard, but I am more awake to the state of my soul. I can’t go outside without seeing the deadly effects of nature. And I can’t help but ponder: What grows takes root, and what takes root may very well take over. So, what is it I need to surrender? What cords must be cut in order to walk in freedom and life?

With the world on lock down for the weeks and months ahead, it seems the perfect opportunity to go outside and untangle the mess in my yard. I hope it proves the perfect opportunity to untangle our hearts as well. 

Kari is a writer, homeschooler, and curator of a slow and beautiful life. A midwesterner turned New Englander, her family has travelled much and focused on rooting into God’s green earth in search of His perfect soil. You can find her writing at The Wheat Princess blog and @thewheatprincess on Instagram.

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