Thursday, December 10, 2015


On my exercise walk in our quiet development I always pause in front of a massive, ornate, locked iron gate beyond which a long, winding driveway leads to a neglected, unoccupied house. To those of us living in neighboring houses, also on five acre wooded lots, this house remains a mystery.

The house pictured is not the one about which I'm writing. I wish to protect privacy. Nevertheless, it depicts the ravages that are in progress from neglect.

Originally, it was the largest, most elegant, beautiful, and richest home built in our community. It was happily occupied by the builder and his family. When the house was sold and first owner  moved, the happy sound of children and a barking dog no longer echoed through the woodland surrounding it. Three years of silence have passed. For some unknown reason, the new owners never moved in nor were they ever seen. Several summers and winters have left their destructive mark on the neglected property.

Weeds and vines have crept over the driveway and wild brush and thickets took over the carefully manicured landscaping. Among other plants, Kudzu, which was originally imported from Southeast Asia for ornamental landscaping purposes, has smothered large sections of the property. It is a take-over plant climbing, coiling, and trailing its perennial vine silently over trees, crossing roads, and suffocating any edifice in its way. An invasive, noxious, destructive  weed, it stretches and climbs as well as crawls and grows so rapidly that it kills other plant life by heavy shading.

The beautiful facade of that house in our neighborhood is beginning to show the ravages of neglect and the passing of time. Doubtless the interior is also suffering from the consequences of inattention season after season. Wild, woodland creatures, large and small, have probably found access to the locked house and settled in the rooms with their households according to their own creature lifestyle, which is destructive. The laws of nature have taken over—anything unattended tends to decline and deteriorate.

The analogy applies to our mortal body and soul as well. If we neglect the care and nourishment of our bodies, they weaken and deteriorate. They become vulnerable to illness. If we neglect the care and nourishment of our spiritual life, even if our soul was healthy and robust previously, it will shrivel up. The trajectory is downward. Without consistent attention, if there is no progress, there is regress. If we don't press forward, we slide backward.

“Little foxes” sneak in stealthily and ravage our tender vines, in the words of the Song of Songs. First we become careless in our inner spiritual life and devotional habits; then we forsake gathering with other believers; soon our salt has lost its flavor and effectiveness, and weeds take over our fruitful planting. Our Christian facade becomes covered with choking vines, the Light within us grows dim, and we hide in the shadows. Our spiritual vitality is sapped and we grow drowsy, lulled into ineffectiveness. The cares of this world and the length of our journey of life has made us weary. Since The Bridegroom seems to be a long time coming, like the foolish bridesmaids who let their lamps run out of oil, we became drowsy and we fall asleep. (Matthew 25:5)

“He who has ears to hear,” declared Jesus, “let him hear.” Notwithstanding how faithful and fruitful we have been in the past, Jesus speaks softly and sorrowfully to the ears of our heart, “I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4).

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