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Poison Sumac


    Recently, my daughter and son-in-law moved to another city. I offered to help them with their move, but, considerately, they hired men to do the necessary lifting of furniture and boxes. However, they accepted my offer and invited me to visit them in their new apartment and help them unpack.
    When I arrived, I was allowed to unpack a few books. However, knowing my love for the out-of-doors and gardens, they requested that I work on their little 10 by 10-foot enclosed backyard. The little yard was very cute, with a brick floor, surrounded by flower beds and a tall, 8-foot high wooden fence. In the corner was a huge tree, with a trunk, 3 feet in diameter, and covered by ivy, which clung to the tree, covering it completely for the first 20 feet, obscuring the top of the tree, which seemed to rise 40 feet high.
    Though my job was to rake dead leaves and debris from the yard and from under the porch, I also spied what appeared to be poison sumac plants all over the yard. I informed my daughter of this menace, but added that I was not sure that it was “poison” sumac, because these plants did not have red, feathery growths at the end of their stalks. My skeptical daughter did an investigation on the internet, and informed me that what I had thought was poison sumac all these years, was not. However, she showed me the photos of the “real” poison sumac and it looked exactly like the plants in their yard! Her skepticism of the problem now turned to concern. I offered to rid their yard of poison sumac, but requested rubber gloves and a long-sleeved shirt to go with my long trousers. Though the outside air in Baltimore was hot and humid, it was worth wearing more clothing to avoid having contact with poison sumac. I well remember having a bad case of poison sumac when I was in kindergarten, and my memory was that I was covered, from head to toe, with a rash, for over a month. Both my daughter and son-in-law are susceptible to poison sumac, so it was imperative to remove it from the yard. If it was not poison sumac, then I would just be removing unnecessary plant growth.
    I painstakingly pulled up every poison sumac weed. However, I discovered, just outside their yard, other poison sumac trees, branches towering over their fence. My daughter supplied me with a saw to cut through the 2-inch trunks. The weeds, I carefully put into bags, but the trees, I had to pile in the back alley, for the trash collection. I raked the leaves and found more poison sumac under the leaves and pulled it up. Finally, 3 or 4 hours later, the leaves and debris were all raked up and there did not appear to be any poison sumac left in the yard. However, I was not able to pull up all the roots and warned my daughter about that. If they were going to live in that apartment for a long time, it would be a good idea to destroy the roots of the poison sumac.
    I breathed a sigh of relief that the job was done and the poison sumac was gone, at least for the foreseeable future. I found myself surveying that beautiful large tree, in the corner of their yard. The 3-foot diameter trunk was completely engulfed by beautiful, green ivy and it was not obvious what kind of tree it was. My eyes followed the growth of the thick ivy, up the tree trunk, to a good 20 feet above the ground, where the tree branches were not covered by ivy. With dread, I discovered that this huge tree had the same leaves as the poison sumac, that I had just removed from the yard! Was this a poison sumac tree, or was all the growth a benign sumac? None of us were really sure. When I mentioned this to my father, he did some investigation of his own, and discovered that poison sumac can indeed grow into a tree of 35 feet in height!
    Is this like some things in life? Isn’t this poison sumac is like sin? You can pull it up and saw it away, but if you don’t get the roots, it will slowly creep back. We can work so hard to clean up sin or bad habits in our lives, only to learn that we were blind to the very worst of it, which was towering above, like a huge poison sumac tree, disguised by beautiful ivy! I am thankful that God provided a way to destroy the towering sins, roots and all, once and for all, in Messiah.
    Thankfully, I did not get poison sumac from this adventure and I am hopeful that no one else will. It was helpful to clean up the poison sumac, but it will probably grow back, because the roots and the huge tree, that it propagated the sumac, in the first place, are still there. I am hoping that no one will get poison sumac from the tree. I am thankful that God has provided an antidote from the “poison sumac” in our lives and Messiah Jesus has already destroyed the power of sin at the roots and destroyed the “poison sumac tree”.