I have a great number of plants growing in my backyard, most of which I planted, intending them to be a decorative feast, as well as to serve functions like shade, hedging, and more. But many others plants are simply “volunteers,” which have sprung from old roots and stems, or from seeds dropped by birds, or from underground runners that have been spreading for years.
Some of the volunteers get so tall and large that they block the sunshine needed by the plants I want to thrive, so I have to cut them down, or pull them out with their roots, or prune them back. Other volunteers are vines—wisteria, wild grapes, poison ivy—which climb and encircle anything that rises above the ground. Sometimes the leaves cover the plant it climbs, occasionally killing it.
As I was walking around the property the other day, I looked up at the tops of some Leyland Cypress, and discovered that they were being covered by the vines and leaves of a spreading wild plant. The vines had begun with stems smaller than a straw, but because they were growing at the edge of the property, and behind the trunks of the cypress trees, I hadn’t noticed them. For years they had grown, and by the time I did notice them, the trunk from which they all sprang was nearly a foot in circumference.
With all my strength I tried to pull the vines from the trees, but they barely twitched. They had wrapped themselves around the cypress branches in such a way that no amount of pulling and jerking made any difference. Finally, I chained the hitch of my all-terrain vehicle (ATV) to a large tree, and used the attached 5000 pound winch to pull the thickest vines from the trees. At times I wasn’t sure if the vine would detach first, or if the tops of the cypress would snap off.
If I had been aware of the grape vines early in their growth, I could have snapped them easily with my fingernails, but because I was unaware of their growth, enormous effort was required to remove them. And I still have to go back with a chain saw, loppers, and a trailer to remove the main trunk and the remainder of the vines.
All of our unloving behaviors—many of which are addictions—begin as the smallest of tendrils, but as they wave in the wind, they attach to anything in reach, and then they grow thicker, stronger, and taller. These vines don’t wait for us to reach out to them. They reach out to us, eager to gain a grip that will allow them to spread and become stronger. If we don’t do something about them early, removing them can be enormously effortful and even painful. The more we study Real Love, and spend time with wise men and women, the more easily we can identify and eliminate the potentially choking vines in our lives.
Identify and eliminate the choking vines in your life.
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