Where invasive species can't take root

A Christian Science perspective.

Efforts to control invasive plants such as kudzu and leafy spurge, to mention only two, are important to maintaining healthy ecosystems. Left unattended, they can upset the entire balance of natural landscapes.

As a trained plant scientist, I've always been fascinated by plant ecology. But some time ago one species showed me a whole other side of my interest. For three years I studied invasive yellow starthistle, seeking ways to slow or stop its spread. At the time of my study, this plant had already invaded over 1.5 million acres in Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, and over 8 million acres in California.

Like other invaders, yellow starthistle rapidly takes over an ecosystem by out-competing desirable native plants growing right alongside them. While native plants are considered necessary for a diverse and healthy ecosystem, invasive plants dominate the landscape, weakening the balance and integrity of the ecosystem.

It was difficult to see anything good in this plant, given its devastating effect on the grassland region I was studying. But I also knew I could find answers through prayer. This statement from Mary Baker Eddy's book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" became a springboard for my prayer: "All of God's creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible" (p. 514). God is not both good and evil, and therefore the ideas in His creation, which are spiritual, must necessarily exist together in harmony.

All ideas rely on the sustaining love of Spirit. One idea in God's creation does not have greater access to His goodness than another. I reasoned that since God is meeting all needs right at this moment, no idea – and in this case no native plants – could be inadequately supplied. God had already established the integrity of this ecosystem, as well as all others, and I felt assured that it was not doomed.

My prayer also revealed a deeper ecosystem: our consciousness and what we allow to grow in it. In an article titled "Fidelity," Mrs. Eddy asked, "Are we clearing the gardens of thought by uprooting the noxious weeds of passion, malice, envy, and strife?" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 343).

Through my work with invasive species, I've become more alert to the importance of uprooting destructive thoughts – the claims of the carnal, or mortal, mind. Thoughts about lack of work, money, health. Giving credence to anything unlike good necessarily limits one's concept of God's infinite goodness and sustaining power. Speaking of the carnal mind, which Paul described as "enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7), Mrs. Eddy noted in that article, "The weeds of mortal mind are not always destroyed by the first uprooting; they reappear, like devastating witch-grass, to choke the coming clover.... [W]atch their reappearing, and tear them away from their native soil, until no seedling be left to propagate...."

For example, in times when financial pressures seem to lead to judgmentalism, envy, unethical competition, distrust, and fear, it's important to watch what is influencing our thoughts. Sustaining a day-to-day life filled with grace and harmony is similar to maintaining the balance and integrity of an ecosystem. Just as in gardens, weeds of thought reappear and need sometimes to be vigorously uprooted, so also it takes vigilance to maintain individual integrity.

In a dialogue with a lawyer, Jesus approved two points as the key to eternal life: to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves (see Luke 10:25–28). These commands are also essential to defeating evil. Relying on them to guide one's thoughts when making decisions and choosing activities is beneficial. To reject fear – whether over an invasive plant or an uncertain economy – is to recognize and love God as omnipotent and to increasingly hold all the sons and daughters of God as loved and protected.

Since my study of yellow starthistle, more effective detection and monitoring plans for this invader are now in place at local and state levels. These management programs are evidence of the balance and integrity I'd hoped for and prayed to see. I've also found a clearer understanding of God's provision to meet day-to-day challenges in life.

All people naturally benefit from, and can freely accept, the joy of God's sustaining presence. His resources truly are in abundant supply for everyone – and are uninvadable.

Reprinted from the Christian Science Sentinel.

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