Watch Out For The Thorns

Imagine with me a sapling that takes root in fertile soil. Someday, it will become a beautiful oak with branches spreading forth to provide shelter and shade.

However, beside this sapling grows a vine, full of thorns. As the sapling sprouts forth from the earth, the vine reaches for its trunk and takes hold.

The two begin to grow together.

At first, the sapling isn’t affected as the vine slithers its way around and around, meticulously executing its plan. But, as the sapling grows, the thorns from the vine sink their teeth into its trunk. A deadlock for growth takes place as the vine strangles the young oak.

Will the oak shed the thorns and become all that it was created to be?

Or, will remain but an immature sapling, strangled by the thorns in its life?


There are so many times when I feel like that oak. Thorns fight for my attention and affection–they keep me from flourishing.

It would be easy if these thorns weren’t attractive, but most of the time they are. Their lure masks them as beneficial, noble, and prosperous. More often that not, just plain fun.

But the truth is, thorns have one purpose: to keep us from growing.

I am learning to recognize my thorns and, hopefully, shed them.

Maybe you need to shed some thorns too.

Online, words like platform and brand and hustle are used to describe how we engage people in this ever-developing social context. These catch phrases and words provide a great analogy, but they can quickly become piercing thorns when we serve them.

At work, we are motivated by words like bonus, profit, and bottom-line. If left unchecked, thorns emerge. As Gordon Gekko said, “Greed is good”, right?

Sometimes, thorns can even be people–relationships that hold us back, keep us from growing.

If you’re having a hard time finding your thorns, try listening for them.

It’s not a big deal.

You’re just having fun.

It’s just part of the process.

You deserve it.

You’re in control.

These voices are the voices of thorns.

Whether it’s reality tv, religion, or retail therapy, we all have thorns.

But how do we remove them?

Removing Thorns

In a story in the New Testament, known as the Parable of the Sower, Jesus speaks of sowing seed:

“Other seed fell among thorns which grew up with it and choked the plants…The seed that fell upon the thorns stands for those who hear, but they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” Luke 8:7,14

In this parable, He’s speaking of the Gospel, the Good News, but I thought it a great analogy to look at our lives as well.

The first key is the soil. Thorns can’t flourish in fertile soil. The soil rejects the vine and opts for the flourishing oak. In Redefine Rich, I talk about our soul as the soil of our lives. It is the deepest part of us.

In our lives, fertile soil is a blend of gratitude, generosity, and humility. We must cultivate those to weed out the thorns.

Lastly, know your identity. Do you really believe that you were created to be an oak? If no one has ever told you, I am telling you today. You were created to be an oak.

Knowing your true identity helps you disassociate yourself with things that prevent you from becoming your true self.

So friends, be an oak today. Shed your thorns and start to flourish.



Your Whole Life Matters

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11 Responses to Watch Out For The Thorns

  1. Voni Pottle September 6, 2014 at 6:19 pm #

    You hit me between the eyes, Matt. My thorns have been health research and world news. I’ve become aware the last week or so that the time I was using for this info had gone out of whack! and you identified it.
    THANK YOU! There is much that is more important than these things! Now, it is up to me to change my focus.

    • Matt Ham September 7, 2014 at 5:54 am #

      That’s great, Voni! It’s so easy to get caught up in these things, isn’t it?

  2. Corie Clark September 7, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Wow. So good. I HATE the self promoting part of being an author and blogger. And now you’ve got me thinking because who says that’s the way? Sure there are people it’s worked for. But I can think of more people that don’t do it. They just have God’s hand upon them, do what they’re called to do and it just happens. I’ve been trying to be less intentional about self promotion and more intentional about doing the next right thing. What does God want me to do right now? As far as social media goes, I’m just trying to create relationships with the people that I’m encountering.

    • Matt Ham September 7, 2014 at 11:53 am #

      Yes, relationships and one step at a time. Thanks, Corie.

  3. David Mike September 7, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    Social media distractions and the fear of not providing for my family are my biggest thorns. I need a machete!

    • Matt Ham September 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

      Machete’s available!

  4. Larry Carter September 7, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

    Definitely have my share. Pruned a few lately.

    • Matt Ham September 8, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

      Larry, how have you gone about pruning? Maybe how did you recognize them? If you don’t mind sharing.

      • Larry Carter September 8, 2014 at 8:10 pm #

        Matt, I’ve been going through the process of identifying my vision, mission, values and goals. Then I measure everything in my life against those. That way I’m very deliberate about what I let enter my life.

  5. Chris Peek September 8, 2014 at 1:03 pm #

    Matt, great post. This is right in line with what God has been placing on my heart lately. As I wrote about today, these thorns prevent us from tending to our own fields. For me, that includes social media, college football, and the never-ending process of learning instead of taking action.

    • Matt Ham September 8, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      I’m getting this a lot, Chris. It’s interesting, this idea of tending to our own fields and learning contentment while still pursuing action is a challenging one. Keep me posted on your thoughts.