When my family moved into our new home I promised my wife I would clean up the backyard. The yard wasn’t dirty; it was just unruly. The previous owners had left the environment in its natural state, a bit too uncultivated for rambunctious, exploring children like ours.

“Don’t worry about it,” I told her as our furniture poured off the moving truck. “I will have it tamed in no time.” That was almost five years ago. And this spring I finally got around to keeping my promise.

The job that would have taken a weed-eater and a single Saturday afternoon so many months ago was now completely out of hand. As I took on the task of clearing the half-acre wilderness behind our house, it required an army of axe men and a couple blasts of napalm.

Where once there were only weeds and squatty palmettos, there were now oak groves, pine thickets, prickly vines, and broom sage patches more than waist high. If only I had grabbed hold of the backyard years earlier, as I promised, the work would have been easier and far less painful.

Life isn’t much different than my procrastinated landscaping. Small, course brush piles, left unattended and unchecked in our lives, usually take over everything in sight. And the longer we wait to throw ourselves at such thickets, the harder it is to clean things up.

An insignificant rough spot in your marriage, harmless and customary, can turn your relationship into wasteland if you leave it to itself. A single hit, blow, or smoke can sprout like kudzu into an out-and-out addiction, swallowing all good ground in your life.

A bad diet – that same diet you say you will one day change – can lead to heart disease, stroke, obesity, or death if you let the years just tick on by. That tiny scrub bush of anger or that sprout of revenge can quickly mature into a hateful, barbed muddle of a mess that chokes your spirit out.

Solomon was a Jewish king who lived several thousand years ago. He was the son of the great king David, incredibly wealthy, and in his day, world famous. He was also one of the wisest men to ever draw breath.

We have many of his words of wisdom in the Old Testament book of Proverbs. In one passage Solomon writes: “Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism” (Proverbs 18:9 The Message).

Or as another translation puts it: “Being lazy is no different than being a troublemaker” (CEV). Of course, when we put off uprooting the thorns and thistles that threaten to overrun our lives, the trouble comes first to us, and then to everything we touch – especially those we love.

Our partner or spouse suffers. Our children, family, and friends are caught in the underbrush. Everyone who gets near us is poked and prodded by the chaos we have allowed to run wild, all because we put off for tomorrow the gardening that could and should have been done yesterday.

So if you have a small patch of weeds in your life (or in your backyard for that matter), go pull them up by their roots today – right now. Don’t wait a minute more. Grab hold of the work while it is still manageable.

But if your slack habits have already led to trouble, there is only one solution: Some very hard work. You will have to chop and cut your way through it all with plenty of blisters, sore muscles, and a few tears to show as a result. But it will be worth it.

Today in my backyard, a lot that once only held wild grasses, briars, and bushes, my children have more room than ever to play safely. Where there was wasted space, now there are soccer games, hide-and-seek marathons, and camp outs.

A vegetable garden, just like the one my wife has wanted for five years now, has been laid aside, and the seedlings are breaking through the soil. Enjoyment, produce, blooming flowers: These have all taken the place of what once was.

Granted, it is a work in process. The wiles and woolies are always creeping in from the margins to take over once again. But I won’t ignore it. I can’t afford to. It is too hard of work to put off for later.

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