Faith & Worship: Kudzu and the Serenity Prayer

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, July 26, 2017

“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:25

Perhaps the strangest thing that I have encountered here in Tryon is the great swaths of kudzu. It’s not that I hadn’t ever before seen kudzu; rather, it’s the way that I have seen kudzu now that I have lived here for a year.

Before living here, kudzu was just another creeping plant that I saw along the highway when I was driving quickly through the South. Now I see kudzu as the great and indefatigable enemy that grows everywhere. One moment it’s not there. The next minute it’s not only there, but it is also everywhere.

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The other week I was driving down US Hwy. 176 with my good friend, Ben Davis, and I asked him, “What can we do about all this kudzu?” He just breathed out an exhausted sigh, looked out into the distance and said, “Not much, not much. It’s like trench warfare against zombies. It just keeps coming, and you hear whispers occasionally of a super drug being concocted in the orange labs of Clemson. The stuff keeps coming, though, and we will all be covered one day with kudzu.”

I said to Ben, “Isn’t that kind of grim and fatalistic? You can fix anything. Surely you must be able to solve this problem.”

“Well,” he said, “If it were an engine or a trap drain, I’d be able to fix it lickety-split, but this stuff was created in the devil’s superlab.” 

“Hmmm,” I said. “The devil has a superlab? Where is this lab, and who works there?”

He turned to me and shook his head like I was the stupidest Yankee ever. “Look,” he said, “I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Atlanta, but the devil obviously created the traffic there. I’m pretty sure the devil’s superlab is somewhere near the intersection of I-75 and I-85. As for who works there, it’s a shadowy operation, so your guess is as good as mine.”

“Okay, but what about this kudzu? Are we truly left to resignation in the face of an unstoppable and inevitable force?”

“Well, I’m only resigned half of the time,” he said. “The other half of the time, I use the kudzu as a meditation for my serenity prayer. I know I can’t control it, so there’s no use letting it steal my peace. There’s no use in me getting exasperated every time I see another field or hillside covered in this stuff. I just try to recognize it as part of God’s creation.”

I said to him, “That’s wonderful and sublime stuff there, Ben, but sometimes I have nightmares of being covered over in my sleep by kudzu vines. How can I remain serene, if my dreams are covered in kudzu?”

“Well, you’re the preacher, and I’m not a psycho-therapist. I can’t fix your neuroses concerning kudzu vines, but I can tell you that ultimately God’s creation consists of things we like and things we don’t like. Ultimately, I think we have to be able to bring the noxious weeds into our prayers as much as the beautiful sunset over the mountains. Otherwise, we’re trying to force God’s creation into our own desires.”

“Well,” I said, “it looks like you’re the preacher now.”

“Perhaps I am,” he said, and nodded while we drove past fields of kudzu.

Father Robert Ard, Holy Cross Episcopal Church