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Kudzu and Other Strangleholds

Why do some days feel so incredibly oppressive? Why is it that you can be sailing along, feeling somewhat energetic and hopeful, accomplishing you goals, then other days you wake up wondering what hit you? Have you ever asked where exactly do these dark thoughts emerge from? Or, “Why did my energy suddenly evaporate” or “Is there really any purpose to all of this?” No one wants to live in the abyss. So, how do we wind up there and how do we get out and how in the world do we prevent ourselves from getting there in the first place??

Looking back on my childhood, I believe I’ve been prone to depression all my life. As I matured I found that playing the clown relieved the stress of dark thoughts and eventually I developed an outgoing personality. Yet, as I unknowingly continued to hide the true person God had created me to be, when the clowning and other damaging behaviors were set aside and I was left with myself, the nagging empty, depressive mode would take over spiraling me downward once again. And looking for relief, any form of it, I reached into oblivion to grab a hold of anything that would slake the onslaught of the morose dehydration in my soul.

I met Jesus, the real one, in 1984. Obtaining water from THE well brought me back for more…and more. This was a time of isolation (maybe more like a honeymoon phase) with just my Jesus and me. He taught me much from His Word, and from His heart, and I will never forget those hours and days of seeking Him, learning from Him, and communing with Him. No church, no sermon, no other book could provide what He did alone in causing His Words to come alive in my heart and to learn…relearn…so much of what I had been taught early in life. As I eventually became integrated in certain “church” experiences, I started to feel the need to identify with those who seemed more spiritual then I was. Roots of shame began to develop and grow as I was increasingly aware of my looks, my style, my personality, even the music I enjoyed! Constantly feeling “too much” or “not enough” I sensed the need to hide my true self. Actually I wasn’t hiding…it was more like choking.

Here’s where the kudzu kicks in…

Living in the south, we are quite aware of this weed that enjoys choking the vibrant life out of trees. It starts out as a benign little green-leafed creeper, but its exponential growth overtakes the unsuspecting tree, depriving it of sun and oxygen. Though all appears splendid on the outside, all the green lushness is an illusion. The tree is dying inside. It’s ready to fall. Kudzu has this way of stealing necessary nutrients and replacing them with an ornamental lie, “If it looks good, then all’s good”. And when you’re dying inside sometimes you just can‘t reach for the sun (Son).

So, how do we arrest this beast? By getting to the root. Kudzu has a main root bulb that the vine emerges from. Our thought lives have foundational roots, too. As we allow toxic thoughts to swarm around our brains, those damaging “weeds” are strangling out the good, healthy, and true mindset that God desires for His own. We can fool others with the pretty green exterior, but our emotional temperature will give us the real story. If depressive or anxious thoughts are the norm for you, maybe it’s time to uproot the source. It’s not too late to uncover the origin of your pain. Enlist safe sojourners. You’d be surprised as you share your pain how many of us have felt the stranglehold. Ask for prayer. Seek godly, grace-based counseling. Think about what you are thinking about and then correct it with “whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…excellent or admirable.”

So much emphasis lately seems to be on how to change the negative social issues we face. But until we change the emotional issues inside of ourselves we are powerless to turn the tide of the current culture.

Glancing at the once-majestic evergreen at the far end of my yard, I’m reminded of what could be. By the time we recognized the cruel, damaging weed, it was too late for this one. Once the weed was stripped off the beauty of the pine had browned leaving only lifelessness. Don’t allow this to be you. Get your garden gloves on and expose the roots! Nurture the magnificent soul you were created to be and “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

It’s up to you. The toxic vine of thoughts WILL DIE when we cut it at the root.

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Lori Travers

Lori finds the Joy of the Lord to be her strength. Born and raised an Italian Jersey girl, she has finally settled in the south as Reynolda Presbyterian church became her new home. Ministry to women, reading, writing, cooking, and anything having to do with animals are her sweet spots. Having a background in cardiac testing, she chose to stay home and raise three incredible children who are now married, and currently has 2 precious granddaughters and one faithful husband of 34 years.

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