God usually gives me the weekly message through whatever is happening in my life that week. This past week I decided it was time to get rid of a stump in the garden. It wasn’t just any stump but the last stump remaining after clearing trees for our garden. When we moved here a few years ago the previous owner didn’t have a garden spot. What he had was a home with a large yard. Our farm is five acres and the majority of it is in woods. After looking around the most logical spot to put our garden was the yard. I suppose some people love their yard and feel that it adds to the beauty of their home. They spend hundreds of dollars a year keeping it cut and using chemicals to keep the weeds out. They often spend more money bringing in sod and getting every blade of grass the same type. For us, that was a waste of space.
What we wanted was a garden to grow our food. The area that we decided on had a few trees that would have to be cut down. I quickly took them down and Angie plowed up around the stumps with a tiller. The leftover stumps had roots that were wide around the area where the trees had been so it reduced the possible area where we would grow food. We didn’t worry too much as we felt that in a few years they would be gone. Year after year we have worked on the stumps until only this one remained. I worked each one down when it had decomposed some and removed the remnants. The last tree was the largest. It was also a sweet gum which doesn’t rot very quickly.
As I began to dig around the stump I got very excited. I imagined getting it out that afternoon. I took my tractor and dug as much as I could with the front-end loader. Then I got down in the hole and began the hard work. Using my mattock I cut every root as low as possible. When I was convinced that I had cut them all I got back on the tractor and prepared to pull it out. I hesitated, thinking about getting Angie to take a picture of the “last stump” coming out. After all, this was a momentous occasion! I proceeded though, thinking I would have it out and the hole covered up before Angie ever got there. When I hooked the bucket under the stump and lifted nothing happened. Something was still holding on. I would have to dig more and find out what else was there.
As I dug deeper I discovered that there were a lot more roots than I first believed. Let me shorten the story to say that over the entire week I have dug and cut roots and it still won’t move. My neighbor suggested that I burn it out. I have never had success with that procedure but I tried it anyway. The diesel fuel that I saturated it with burned beautifully but as soon as the fuel burned away the stump went out!
I mentioned that my messaged come from life experiences. The entire time I was digging I was thinking about problems; deep rooted problems. We all have them and deal with them in our own way. Often, we just ignore the problem and think it will eventually go away. When you walk by a stump it fools you with what you see. Above the ground there may be nothing showing but some rotted wood. You kick it and it crumbles. Yet, if you try to plow around it you will discover the roots below the surface. I remember a man who cleared his lot and the entire front of his yard was full of stumps. He planted grass and mowed around each one. Every time I passed his house I checked to see how it looked. After ten years he still had to get a stump grinder to come in and take them out. It would be wonderful if our problems just went away through time. But they don’t. A stump left alone will often sprout again and become a tree. With the root system of a mature tree and the sprig of a new sapling it grows at tremendous rates.
It reminds me of a scripture in Matthew 12:43-45. Jesus said when a demon is cast out of a man it wanders and if it can’t find a home it comes back with seven more demons worse than the first. It finds the place swept clean and moves back in. Have you noticed that when someone overcomes a sin, such as alcohol, and then “falls off the wagon” they are always worse off than the last time? Those roots are there and the new sapling gets an enormous boost to grow. When we cut down trees the job isn’t over. We may learn to hide our problems from everyone but when roots remain there is danger of new growth.
As I was digging out that stump I stopped to catch my breath. At one time in my life I could have dug non-stop and gotten it out. I am older now and have to rest often. That’s not a problem because it gives me time to think. I thought about how the roots were a lot deeper than I imagined. I thought about how, even after years had gone by the termites hadn’t eaten it. And, I thought about how wide the area was below the surface. You see, we all have that “below the surface” life. The roots are the secret thoughts we have that everyone would be shocked about. The roots are the failings of our flesh and when we allow them to grow we have to fight to get rid of them. They don’t come out easily or quickly.
I have explained to my family for many years that anything that took a long time to acquire takes an equal time to get rid of or overcome. For instance, if you acquire debt over many years it takes years to get rid of it. If you gain weight over years it takes years to get it off. Our flesh wants everything right now. If we get the revelation that we are in bad health and have been eating poorly we want instant results simply because we now have the knowledge. It doesn’t work that way. Years of smoking cigarettes builds up in your lungs and it can take seven to eleven years to clear out what you put in even after the last cigarette. If you are even forty pounds overweight it will take months to years to get rid of it.
At my best guess that tree was about twenty years old. For twenty years it had grown upward and all the while it added roots. If you look at a tree right now you will not see it growing. You can watch it all day and still not see growth. But it is growing! If I had dug up the roots of that sweet gum before it was cut I would not have seen anything happen. Things grow slowly. This is why we don’t believe that drinking alcohol, looking at pornography, eating to excess or gossiping is harmful. It appeals to our flesh at the first but then after time it comes back to bite us.
In James chapter one you can read about this process. James explains the way that sin creeps in and destroys our lives. In verse fourteen He said we are first tempted of our own lust. Then sin is conceived and finally, when it is finished it brings forth death. I often get shut down by people after I warn them of problems in their lives. I see roots growing and realized how hard it’s going to be for them to dig them up. In their mind there are no roots and it isn’t a problem. They think I’m foolish or judgmental for talking about the stump. After all, they’ve been mowing around it for years and as far as they’re concerned it’s not an issue. They believe ignoring it is the answer.
I wished that worked, for all of us. I would have loved to just ignore the stump and to one day plow over it. I wished that all of our ignored problems would just go away. We’ve been mislead and were told that with new life in Jesus we immediately overcome everything. By believing this and then later failing there have been many people who gave up the faith. When you think the craving for another cigarette will just disappear simply by stopping and then it comes back you become disillusioned. You will believe that Christianity doesn’t work if you expect it to be a one time event. We are told to take up our cross and crucify the flesh daily (Luke 9:23)-not just one time.
I didn’t finish the stump removal that day. I left the job and decided to come back. A few days later I found that a rain had washed dirt into the hole and it required me to re-dig what I had already dug. Man! I hate doing the same job twice! Dragging my feet on this job cost me more labor. It always does. Putting off work only makes it harder.
Do you have stumps in your life that you’ve ignored? Are there deep rooted problems that you know have kept you from growing the garden you are capable of? Maybe you saw how deep they were and just covered them back up. You thought that they were just too hard to get rid of. Let me tell you that they aren’t. By consistently digging and cutting the roots you can one day free yourself of the obstacle. There may be habits in your life that you’ve never overcome. Maybe there are emotional issues and unforgiveness against someone for a hurt. Deep rooted problems will always keep you from the joy you can have.
I suggest that you begin today to dig. Ask Jesus to help you with it and be honest with Him. He already knows what’s there. Allow the roots to be exposed. Understand that it may take some time. If you find it too hard to do alone get others to help you. My family is always available to pray with you. I regularly get emails asking for help or to answer questions and I will be happy to write you.
By the way, my stump is still there. It’s exposed but it remains. Every chance I get I go by and cut a little more. Some day soon we will celebrate the removal! I won’t give up and neither should you. May God Bless you as you persevere in Him.
Prayer-Father, we often feel that if we ignore problems they will go away. Sometimes it even seems that they are gone. But if we’ve not dealt with them it can be a tool of the enemy to grow more problems. I ask that You reveal these roots in our lives and allow us to see how deep they are. I pray for all those who read this message and are faced with unresolved problems of the past. Give them the strength to work and remove these through Your Grace.
In Jesus’ Name-amen
Filed under: Messages