This last week I was working on my front patio, a brick area my wife laid out for our family about ten years ago. It’s been a fantastic little space for us to sit and enjoy family meals, watch the kids play on the slip-n-slide in the front yard, and a place to set up home plate for me and AJ and while playing baseball with a whiffle ball.
However, despite our efforts to prevent weeds from growing up through the bricks, we had a small broad-leaf, weed-farm sprouting up this past year. We used Caseron, Round up and landscape tarp in an attempt to keep weeds away. No luck. So last week I started two weeks of vacation by pulling apart each of those bricks, and removing all of those weeds.
I discovered something particularly interesting about the weeds. As I pulled out each brick, I expected to see that the landscape tarp that I laid under the bricks (you know, the one with the 15-year guarantee?) was full of holes, with weeds sprouting up through each hole. As I lifted the bricks, I was already mentally writing my letter of complaint to the company, requesting a new tarp (for failure of their product) and a new yard (for emotional pain and suffering). To my dismay, I found the tarp was 99% untouched. In fact, over the entire space, I only found three or four holes where weeds had broken through. Instead, as I started yanking up weeds I realized a network of roots that blanketed the entire patio area. Not huge roots, but thousands of them, and thin as your hair. It was actually quite impressive.
Now that my lawsuit for pain and suffering was unreasonable, I started hoping I’d get something out of this little ten-hour word project. Indeed, I did: a blog.
I don’t know why it hit me, but I suddenly thought about how much sin gets into our lives like these little weed roots. We try to protect ourselves by going to church (Caseron), hanging out with other believers (Roundup) and living out our daily habits (Landscape tarp). We feel like we got ourselves “covered” but usually that’s only against the “biggies” -- Drugs, Sex and Rock-n-Roll (Alcohol, Tobacco and Dancing for other Baptists like me). (Which reminds me of my favorite Baptist joke: Why do Baptists oppose pre-marital sex? Because it might lead to dancing! [insert laugh track])
Yes, I know many believers who have shipwrecked their lives, and the lives of those closest to them, at least for season, because of the “big sins” that instantly change a life when they happen, or when they are exposed. An affair is devastating. The impacts of divorce can be crushing to everyone. A murderer touches the lives of thousands of individuals. A sex offender leaves scars that no amount of time will ever fully heal. (Thankfully, there is healing, it’s just that these sins forever change those whom they are against.)
However, most believers I know who have shipwrecked their faith have done so, not instantaneously with the biggies, but rather, through a daily neglect of the little weed-roots that wrap themselves around everything. Gossip doesn’t usually destroy a family over night, but leave it unchecked for weeks, months and years, and you’ll see the wake of destroyed people left behind will compare numerically to the lives a murderer touches. Gossip is that destructive, but far more subtle. One exposure to sexually explicit material may not tear a marriage apart. But one exposure, not dealt with, leads to an addiction that destroys relationships, dehumanizes its victims, and permanently taints past memories. The trillion-dollar global sex industry is counting on men and women to have “one little look” every once-in-a-while. A lie to your boss may not seem like a big deal, but a pattern of lying breaks trusts, destroys marriages and ends careers. That “little white lie” can ultimately destroy decades of reputation.
When it comes to these types of subtle sins, Caseron, Roundup and Landscape tarp aren’t enough -- these sins require great vigilance and a relentless commitment to personal growth. That’s probably why most of us aren’t very good at getting them out of our lives -- it’s hard work. It requires us to lift each brick of our lives and inspect them for signs of weed-roots. We have to pick them up, wipe them off with our hands (occasionally getting cut by the rough edges), and place them back in perfect alignment with the other bricks. It’s easy, believe me, to get one section clean and to save the other sections for a rainy day, only to discover that the roots have spread back over the previously cleaned areas. But wouldn’t you know it? You don’t know about those roots until the weeds pop back up. The weeds aren’t the problem...the roots are!
As I finished up my little patio I actually started thinking about some personal struggles in my own life -- areas where I have let little roots spread out, little sins that “aren’t that big of a deal” -- where I have neglected holiness. I have chosen the appearance of being fine (that’s where Caseron and Roundup are great...we kill the visible weeds so it looks fine, but the root remains!) rather than the hard work of exposing, cleaning and removing the root. However, I don’t want a good-looking outer spiritual-appearance while my life remains entangled in the root. I want a Hebrews 12 type of life, one that “removes the sin that so easily entangles...” -- a life that is holy from the roots, up!
Living the Overboard Life, one on the water where Jesus is building His Kingdom, and away from the comfort of the boat, demands a commitment to personal purity. It demands that we clean each brick by hand, and carefully place it back in our lives, root-free. It’s a painful process, it can be a little embarrassing, too, but the purity that comes from it is true and not just a Sunday-morning facade. Seems like Jesus had a few strong words about those Sunday-only people, and you can’t live Overboard just one day a week. Root out sin in your life. Do the work to get to the real problem. Ask for help. Be honest and transparent, regardless of what others will think. And most of all, grow every day in your faith and walk in God -- the Overboard Life is only possible with His help!
Go ahead and take the plunge -- life is always better on the water!