I live in the country—way in the country, Pickens County, West Alabama—and I sometimes take walks in the country, too. On the morning of March 9, 2013, I took a walk. I was in a thoughtful mood. March 9 was my daddy’s birthday. If he had lived, he would have been 101 years old that day. As I walked, the sun rose over the eastern horizon. Birds twittered in the underbrush. I breathed in great gulps of fresh air and Spirit. Memories of my father came and went.
Then I came to this kudzu-infested glade in the forest. A shaft of sunlight streamed over my shoulder, illuminating a great gray trunk of a tree in the distance. Halting in my tracks, I stopped to survey the scene for a few minutes. The cloudy blue sky behind that ancient pine provided a stunning background for the forest sentinel’s stance. Leafless wintering kudzu vines entangled everything within my view in the foreground. The ray of sunlight seemed to be pointing to something, but to what?
I circled around the glade to the right and stopped at another point of view. Kudzu in winter: What parable was being told? How sin entangles and chokes out life? How abiding in the “Christly vine” is so important to us branches?
An interesting term surfaced in my thinking—Kudzu Christianity. And it was in no way appealing. As we southerners know, kudzu is just about the first plant to wither when the chill of winter approaches. Its leaves shrivel away and fall off at the first frost, if not earlier. The plant goes dormant. Its tendrils become brittle and lifeless. With kudzu’s greenery gone, the rest of the plant is exposed. One can see how it rides the surface of the ground and hangs on other plants’ supporting structures.
Is my practice of Christianity like that? Does it grow verdant and lush for a short season, but go dormant at the first hint of a chill? Does it exist on the surface, supported only by other’s strong limbs? Does my Christian faith have roots fanning out over great expanses of area, but never penetrating down into the depths? Do I preach and live Kudzu Christianity?
I circled farther to my right around the edge of the kudzu-covered glade and stopped to view it one last time. From that vantage point the glory of the sun peeked from behind the wooden behemoth’s trunk. It was a dead tree, all right. But looking down between my shoes I saw green seedling pines sprouting from beneath the sprawling battleship-gray kudzu mesh.
My spirit soared on angel wings.
Rev. Roger Short is pastor of Aliceville, Hebron, and Panola UMCs in the Southwest District.