Outside of a coffee shop which is my morning retreat is a tree…or should I say “was” a tree.

A few years ago, A developer built a modern mixed-use project. It became an oasis in the city. I like the coffee and the quiet. Around the patios, builders planted saplings with the expectation of shade for tables and scenery for diners.

Some did. One folded its branches and refused.

Its spiny arms never had a cloak of leaves. Spring after spring, disappointment pushed out promise. It provided neither shade nor beauty. It was a stick taking up space.

Finally, a shovel-toting worker put the blade beneath its barren roots and popped it from the earth. With a shovel, it went from plant to dumpster dweller.

Why dig it up? I am sure reasons abounded.

It took up space. Rain soaked the dead. It’s brittle branches wooed disease and insects. It became a nuisance to discard.

As I watched the shovel bang against the dumpster’s side, I wondered how many things in life need a shovel-to-dumpster treatment.

An old saying reminds us, “when the horse is dead, dismount.” When things become useless, or worse, disturbing, it is time to rid yourself of them.

Think of every routine, relationship, or ritual you let into your life.

We know it’s true about “stuff.” Open a closet and see what falls out. Time to box it up and take it to a charity (or the trash). Bell-bottoms might come back in style (oh, I hope not!) but why bother keeping old things. We all buy new anyway.

We know useless things need to go. It’s harder when it is not physical.

Do you struggle with jealousy? Someone’s achievement flies all over you. Time to put shovel to root.

How about anger? Some are a lit fuse waiting for the BOOM! Does it serve you well, making your life better or worse? Is your marriage stronger because of your temper tantrums?

In our interconnected world, pornography slithers its way into a man’s life. Souls get soiled, and marriages become strained. Is it time to dig it out of your life?

The list is long…worry, resentment, disappointment, perfectionism, gossip, greed, addiction. Bitter attitudes rob life of the energy and vitality. They corrode the heart, slice open hope until it bleeds to death, and shreds futures.

They take up space in life and serve no useful purpose? Why then do we let them get comfortable in our hearts?

The Hebrew writer, using the image of a runner of a race advises,

“let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” (Heb. 12:1)

If it holds you back or trips you up, it’s not worth keeping.

To get out your shovel, notice the dead things in your life and then start digging. Get help from others if necessary. Develop strategies. Refuse to tolerate it.

The dead tree is nothing but history. Now, something good can grow in its place. Isn’t there something in you that demand the same treatment?