Bare thorny vines


What a jumbled mess! I’ve encountered this vine from South Carolina to New England. These tough, thorny vines are the bane of anyone wanting to clear a little land by hand. Cat brier grows as a single stalk from seed, and produces an underground bulb. The longer the plant survives, the more underground bulbs are created. Most of these bulbs just lie in wait. When you think you’ve removed all of the vines, either by cutting or pesticide, the dormant bulbs will send out new shoots! For this reason, cat brier is eradicated more efficiently with a shovel than with shears, the sooner the better. 

As much as it’s seen as a pest, it does have some redeeming qualities for a few brave souls. The tender ends of the shoots are actually edible (see Eat the Weeds and other things, too for harvesting and cooking tips if you’d like some on the side with dinner), as are the berries when old (although not reported to be tasty). The briers provide cover for many birds and small creatures. I know I’d feel a little safer under this mess if I was a rabbit! The plant also provides food for birds, rabbits, deer, bears, and beavers.

Cat brier is perennial, so it loses its leaves in the winter and grows new shoots in the spring. This picture was taken a few weeks ago, before the new growth appeared to blanket the framework. I must say I’m happy this mess is not my backyard! It may be edible, but I’m not going to be tenderly caring for any that may pop up!

Does your heart have a thorny framework hiding under lush-looking greenery? Maybe something in your past created a need to protect yourself, and that self-protection came to feel much more comfortable than being vulnerable. We may try to protect ourselves by keeping others at arm’s length, but we end up feeling lonely and miserable. The thorns become so entwined around us that we even have a hard time knowing who we are under that jumbled mess. Not only do they make it hard for anyone to get close to us, they make it hard for us to reach out to anyone else. They become a barrier to true relationship, from both sides. We even struggle to be vulnerable before God, who created us and already knows us inside and out!

Is it time for some shoveling? Just cutting the vines back won’t do it, the root will just send out new ones. We’ve got to get to the root, and remove it entirely. How do we do that? First of all, pray. Ask God to show you the root of your heart’s self-protection. Ask Him for healing for that situation and heart wound, and for Him to replace those roots with spiritual growth that will lead to spiritual fruit.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! ~ Galatians 5:22-23

The hard part is surrendering to the Master Gardener. This is not an easy process. Don’t hold on tightly to those vines, let them go!

If this issue runs too deep for you to face alone, counseling is an option. Seek out a Christian counselor who can walk alongside you. But please don’t stay imprisoned by the thorns that once seemed to protect you. Life in Christ is so much more! Jesus said,

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. ~ John 10:10

Trust Him. He has blessings in store for you, blessings that your heart has only dreamed of.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. ~ Ephesians 3:20

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