My son just purchased his first home and it has a beautiful yard. It belonged to an older lady who has since had to retire to a nursing home. She had tended this yard for forty plus years. Grand magnolias, crepe myrtles, and redbuds are among the incredible landscape. However, the yard’s dogwood trees are its crowning glory. When they bloom in the spring, their beauty outshines all others to me. I remember when I was a young girl hearing the story of how their blooms are a picture of the cross on which our Savior died. The white petals are in the shape of a cross and at the tip of each is a small blood red spot where Christ’s hands and feet were pierced. It is a reminder of His great love for us in flower form visiting for a little while. I just love them.
The Once Strangled Dogwood
While working to restore order to my son’s over grown yard, one tree seemed unfamiliar at first glance. It was sort of bush-like on top, a bit whimsical in its shape. The trunk was quite pretty and sturdy but I realized its unique look was coming from a vine that was wrapped tightly and coiling up the tree. The vine was almost as large as the tree itself. I walked over to get a closer look and I could identify dogwood leaves popping out on one side. In my excitement I exclaimed, “It is a dogwood tree!” A honeysuckle had overtaken it and it seemed like there was not much tree left. We decided to try and take the honeysuckle off to see if we could reclaim the tree. As we cut my son commented, “But I really like honeysuckles.” He liked the way they smelled, they reminded him of when he was a little boy and he would suck the juice from the flower. But the cutting continued until we had freed the once strangled dogwood.
It was a large tree, a little beaten by the tearing away of the persistent vine and a little stunted on one side from the lack of sun. Now living in freedom I felt certain it would join in the mighty splendor of the other dogwoods. I couldn’t help but compare myself to this tree. Maybe you, too, will see yourself as I explain.
Comparing Myself to The Tree
I am a child of the living Christ.
“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” – John 1:12
Though this is true of who I am, sometimes vines start to grow and entangle me. Maybe it’s a vine of complacency, a vine of comparison, or a vine of striving for perfection. Before I know it, it’s covering up my true identity. Just like the dogwood that almost appeared to be something else. I can get caught up in things of this world. If I am not careful I may be recognized as something other than a child of the one true King. Some may see my vines as pretty like my son thought his honeysuckles were, but I was not created for these worldly entrapments. Letting them take over would not be what I was destined for and ultimately would not bring God glory.
How can we make sure we don’t get strangled by the vines?
- Remember who our perfect Gardener is
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears not fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15:1-2
- Remember these vines are sneaky and sometimes grow slowly
“If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:7
Sometimes my vines seem pretty acceptable: my children, my job and keeping my home nice and cozy for the family. However if they consume time, energy, and resources to the point that I don’t have time with my Father, my faith will get strangled just like that dogwood. No, the dogwood didn’t die; it was just not what it was intended to be. It wasn’t able to display the beautiful flowers it was created to produce.
I want to make sure I tend my life as carefully as we tended my son’s garden. I desire that the Lord be glorified. For this to happen I have got to put my vines in the right place. Just as honeysuckles are wonderful on the edges of a yard where you can enjoy them, we have to place these other things in our life in the proper place. Time in the Word of God and in prayer have to take center stage so we may bloom and give a sweet fragrance to all those around. We need to be a reminder to the world of Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross. Just as the Dogwood flower shows us in its petals about the nails that pierced our Savior’s body.
“Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities: the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5
Do you have some vines that need tending? Pray and ask God if there is anything that is choking your life with Him. Get to trimming back those vines ladies! Sometimes taking a friend into the garden and asking them to help you see what needs clipping can help too! 🙂