There’s an interesting passage in Luke 11. It says:

24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

It reminds me of blackberries. Yeah, blackberries – I’ve got this (super fun, sorta) project that I’ve been working on in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been carefully grubbing up blackberries and their roots.

Himalayan blackberries love it here in the Willamette Valley. They aren’t native plants, which means that they don’t have terribly effective competition. Given half a chance, they reproduce faster than rabbits. They’ve become a real problem in some of my mom’s pastureland. Most of one field has a low covering of the stalks, the edges sporting snagged wisps of wool waving the sheep flock’s surrender.

There are many methods that could be used to clear the field, to sweep clean the house. Spraying it with an herbicide like Crossbow is pretty popular and probably one of the easiest methods. Herbicides can be effective, but there are possible drawbacks. You can kill off plants you want to keep or leave behind poisonous residues. Hacking, leveling with large equipment, and burning are other methods, none of which are terribly effective and all of which have cons. You see, blackberries have roots, highly resilient, life loving, strive to survive roots. Those roots don’t much care if you hack off all of the shoots above ground. Whatever. They’ll just wait until you’re not looking and put up some more. Death by flames? Haha. Most of those roots will survive just fine. Use large machines to gouge those roots up? YES!!!…. Maybe not so much. Some will die, sure, but some will just get uprooted, reburied, and start – you guessed it – putting up shoots. Those shoots won’t even have any competition but for the other weeds, ‘cause large machinery is nondiscriminatory and digs up everything. Too bad the sheep wanted to eat that grass, huh? It’ll look like you swept the ground clean, but those berry roots are just biding their time, waiting to shoot up and reproduce.

I suppose this is why we’ve found the laborious method of grubbing up blackberries by hand to be the most effective. I get rid most of the roots, and I don’t completely thrash the other plants nearby. Much of the grass is still there, and especially this time of year, it doesn’t waste any time creeping into the empty space. Root removal by Rebekah helps evict those wicked berries and preserves and encourages other plant growth. If all I did was try to clean out the canes, even if I managed to kill off the roots, if I don’t fill the space with something else, those berries will be right back in there growing like mad.

That’s why the story in Luke reminds me of blackberries. I’ve never had any lasting success in keeping a field clear of berries without introducing something positive (plants, animals, etc.) to help control their persistent encroachment attempts. Likewise, I’ve never had any lasting success in my life in overcoming bad habits, repenting of sin, or being delivered of any sort of wickedness if the process stops there. Can’t leave the space empty. It leaves room for all of that junk and then some to make itself right back at home.