Making a Choice

By Corey Willms

In one of my devotions with the middle years students this year, I talked about a plant that grows in abundance on the trails behind our house.  I was reminded of this lesson last week as I went for a mountain bike ride and passed one of the places where this plant grows.  While I was reading the Parable of the Sower in Luke Chapter 8, I was reminded again of what I had said to the students.  Maybe God is really trying to make a lesson stick in my life.  I thought that I would share it with you.

The cross-country ski trails beside our house are named Bittersweet trails after the bittersweet plant.  The bittersweet plant is actually quite nice to look at.  It is a vine that crawls up a nearby tree and produces nice red berries.  That is the sweet part.  The bitter part is that the bittersweet plant can choke the life out of its host… literally.  The vine wraps tighter and tighter around the host plant as it grows, and it actually leaves grooves in the tree that it is climbing.

This is a good metaphor for what Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Sower.  In the Parable, the seed (representing the Word of God) fell on four different places with different growing conditions.  In the one location, thorns surrounded the seed and choked it out, in a similar manner to how bittersweet can choke the life out of a tree.  Jesus goes on to explain that the thorns represent life’s worries, riches, and pleasures.  I think that there are several of us who sometimes get caught up in the materialistic nature of our North American culture.  It is also easy to focus on life’s uncertainties and to be overcome with worry, instead of peacefully trusting God.  What else can choke out the life of our heart and entangle it, keeping us from the freedom that God intends for us, as well as keeping us focused on ourselves instead of looking for opportunities to help others?  Bitterness and envy are two things that come to mind.  What can we do about these things?

I have struggled with all of these at various points in my life.  When I catch myself worrying (or somebody else catches me), I try to recall all of the times that God has faithfully provided for me.  I remember when He gave me needed stamina, words to say, financial provisions, and the list goes on.  That usually helps me to relax.  A friend of mine told me to imagine myself taking whatever is concerning me and laying it at the foot of the cross for Christ to deal with.   Every time that I have tried this, I have immediately felt a surprising amount of peace.  Just spending time reading God’s word and worshipping Him helps me to take the focus off of myself and to concentrate on His strength.  When I find myself distracted by material things, I try to list off how I have already been blessed by God in this area.  I also try to think about what is truly important to me, which is relationships (with God, with family members, and with others).  That usually helps me realize how the most important things in life aren’t material things, and that God has actually taken care of me quite nicely in this department.  If I am bitter about something, then I work at forgiving who I need to or apologizing to whom I need to.  If I am envious, it helps me to write out a list of how God has blessed me, and then to pray for those whom I am envious of – that God would bless them even more.  That really helps me adjust my attitude.

I don’t mean for this to be a comprehensive list of how to deal with the things that can choke us from being free, but they are things that have been helpful for me.  Perhaps they will be helpful for you too.  If there is something that is choking the spiritual life out of you, work at dealing with it.  If you are unsure of how to do that, seek the wise counsel of others.  Otherwise, it will keep eating away at you.

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