Picking Stickers

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

– Revelation 21:4

I’m not a big fan of cold weather. I’d much rather be outside working and sweating, than have freezing hands while scraping ice off a car in the morning.

Yet, as winter is here, there is one thing I’m thankful for; not having to cut grass. Then with that, not having to deal with sand burrs.

I truly hate these painfully prickly plants with righteous furry! So much so, that every time I plan to cut grass I walk the yard and pick as many plants as I can find. Some days I have spent several hours, getting 6-8 five-gallon buckets worth out of the yard.

During the summer, when I spend my Saturday mornings doing this, I tend to think on several things. One set of thoughts that continually emerges in these times is contemplating the struggle and fight against sin.

Having to deal with these foot assassins is a part of living in a world that is under the curse of sin (Genesis 3:18), and honestly I have hoped several times that Adam at least had to step on one of them. Yet, no matter if he did or didn’t, I think there is a bigger picture we can see in picking stickers. Something to see in spending hours knelt on the ground pulling plant, after plant, after plant. It is a thought that stems from the question, “Why am I even doing this?”

The reason why, is because I hate the pain the stickers bring, and I love my kids. I want my kids to be free to run in their yard without fear, but they cannot. I tell them often to avoid the areas where they are the thickest, and to always keep their shoes on in the yard.

I still vividly remember one day where my son did not heed the warning and ran with just flip flops into a large batch of them. He screamed that scream all parents know. The scream that is not whiny, not annoyed, not upset, but pain. Real pain. He had several deep in his feet that had to be pulled out, and if you have ever experienced that, it is not fun. It broke my heart having to watch him suffer that pain, and it broke it in two ways.

First, that he didn’t heed my warning. He was running and I knew where he was heading, so I cried out, “STOP!!” but he kept going. He not only failed to follow the warning that day in the moment, but also the many warnings before, pointing them out and telling him to be watchful for them. But that day he wasn’t, and there were consequences that broke my heart for him to endure.

Second, is that he even has to deal with stickers in his life. I hate that they even exist, that their presence threatens him when he runs through the yard. It breaks my heart that he cannot go outside barefoot and just run through the grass without worry. There is always a threat, always at least one lying in wait to cause him pain.

As I was thinking on that, the picture became clearer and clearer. God has always been so gracious to warn us of sin and the pain it brings. His words are not hazy on the subject. His warning is clear and so often, even if just a still small voice, we can hear the shout, “STOP!!” in our heart. And so many times when we do not listen, we tend to think God stands over his children to condemn them. Yet just as a father, I believe his heart breaks over the pain our sinful choices inflict upon ourselves and others. He kneels with us, and pulls the stickers from our feet with care. It hurts taking these things out, but it’s gracious love that does it.

Not only that, but God hates that we even have to deal with sin. Not only does his heart break when we do not follow him, which brings pain and suffering, but he wants to remove the threat completely. And for his children, one day, even the threat of sin will be no more.

My brother, after his first experience seeing these plants, told me I need to set the yard on fire, burn it all down, and bring in new fresh sod. I don’t think I’ll trying that anytime soon, however with God and this world, that’s going to happen one day. This world full of sin, this place overrun by sin, will be set ablaze by a holy and just God, removing every remnant of it forever. Then for his children, he will create a new heaven and new earth where we can run barefoot with him with no fear! A place void of sin, void of the struggle, void of the fight. I long deeply for that day!

Another thought that came to my mind was a plea for myself and other dads. A plea to God to help me see my kids in that same way. That when they sin, are defiant, covet, and every other act of disobedience they can conjure up, that I would not just see a child rebelling against me, but against God, and that it would break my heart. That I would not discipline out of anger or frustration, or react with zero patience, but that I would see it the same way as the day my son ran through a sticker patch. That it would break my heart, and that my discipline would be from a desire to lovingly remove the stickers from his feet, and to point him always to the one that can remove them from his heart forever.