My sister recently shared with me an article on the Bradford pear—that seemingly innocuous but definitely ubiquitous white flowering tree. It seems that it was introduced by the Department of Agriculture in 1964, and due to a lack of foresight, is now an environmental nightmare. Among other things, the trees are sterile and therefore only cross-pollinate with other vegetation, and the resulting trees which spread rapidly and choke out all other vegetation. As she read me the article, like every good citizen of the South, I thought of the disaster that is kudzu.
For those who aren’t familiar with kudzu, it was introduced to the United States as a solution to soil erosion. Southern farmers were paid to sow it into topsoil. It spreads like wildfire, completely taking over all other vegetation, blocking any other plant from sunlight and needed nutrients, and subsequently killing all native plants in the area. Needless to say, the South is now plagued with the invasive weed and yet another government solution has backfired.
It’s hard to refrain from painting the pretty obvious picture of where big government solutions to local problems land us, but I want to take my reflection a little more inward. What happens when man tries to play God? Or better yet—what happens when I try to control my life?
How often do I think I know better than God how my prayers should be answered? How often do I sow the wrong seeds in my heart—grasping onto plans and goals and dreams, sowing seeds of self-righteousness and pride? And as those seeds choke all others—the seeds of peace and contentment, patience and humility—my life spirals downward, leaving me unhappy and restless. Take a look at the way you’ve been living. Are you sowing spiritual kudzu that is blocking God’s ability to work in your life? Or are you letting Him give you the blessings He wants to give you?
The more you hold on to your plans, the more they will begin to control you, like kudzu taking over the natural beauty of the land.
It’s natural to want your life to go a certain way. It’s a good thing to plan and prepare. There’s nothing wrong with working towards goals, making long-term plans, or saving for retirement. But what happens when life throws you a curve ball? Are you so attached to your ideas that you’re afraid to let God have control?
It’s not that we throw everything to the wind, only live for today and just assume that God is miraculously going to provide for all our needs without our help. But we have to remember that everything we have is ultimately his- even our plans, our goals, and our dreams. As soon as we begin to think we know what will make us happy better than He does, the kudzu we sow will begin to block out the sun.
His plans are not always comfortable. They are not always easy. But they will, without a doubt, make us happiest. Maybe five years ago, you pictured yourself now in a very different place. Maybe since then, tragedy has struck, or the economy tanked, or an unexpected “blessing” came your way. Are you still willing to let Him drive? Are you willing to surrender and keep going?
If you look at your life and realize you’ve been driving the car, you’ve been doing things your way, and now your life is full of kudzu- do not fear. He can work with our mistakes. But it’s time to surrender.
Every day, surrender. It’s not a one-time thing. It’s an everyday thing. Every day, we have to admit that He knows what is best. We work with him, but we surrender to him. His plans might not be our plans. But they’re better.
We see it again and again in the Gospels. Peter wanted to be a fisherman. God had other plans. After the crucifixion, Peter went back to what he knew—he went back to his plans. And look what happened. That night he didn’t catch a darn thing. Perhaps to remind him that God’s plans were not only better but bigger, Jesus helped him catch his last net of fish—far more than he could have ever caught alone. Peter, Peter, Peter. Why you trying to find your own solutions to your problems? God has better ones. Jesus then reminded him that his vocation wasn’t fish- it was sheep.
What happens when I try to control my life? When I try to implement my own plans, my own solutions? It backfires. Again, I’m not implying that there is one path for each of us and all that is required is to passively lie down and wait for God to pull us along. Not at all! He wants our cooperation, and he desires to work with us. He’ll even work with our botched plans! We are called to play active roles in this grand adventure. But we’re also called to surrender to His ways, which are so often not our ways. Stop sowing destructive kudzu, and start allowing Him to be the Sower of the seed. His fruits are much more beautiful.
“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)