Ivy and Sin–Reflections While Gardening

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15

This winter’s rain has caused our garden to grow—and grow and grow and grow. The vines we love are way overgrown and, if truth be told, the ivy and morning glory have been taking over parts of the yard for some years now, gradually winding their tendrils over logs, up the trunks of trees, and into pots and planters. They’re beautiful, so it’s easy to let them take over, but it is time to call a halt. Howard is the master gardener, but over the past week, I committed to getting out my gardening gloves and clippers to help him tame the ivy beast.

The morning glory is fairly easy to pull out, except for where the vines take root and where there are rows and rows of seemingly dried vines lined up along the base of the fence. But the ivy—the ivy has little root-like structures that cling to walls and tree trunks and send down roots into the ground as they slowly take over the yard like something out of a sci-fi horror movie. I have dreams of ivy creeping through tiny spaces in our window frames and attacking us during the night. It has been backbreaking work to pull and clip and shovel our way through the vines and roots. After filling roughly eight large green waste bins, a large pile of detritus still remains from the grass and vines we’ve pulled up. Thankfully, our neighbors haven’t been filling theirs bins and we have been scrounging space wherever we can find it!

I’ve had lots of time to think in the midst of this battle against the Evil Ivy Empire and the correlation between ivy and the sin in my life (insert bad habits, if you prefer) has not been lost on me. Here are some things I’ve learned during these skirmishes.

  • The cement block wall in the back of our yard is ugly and the ivy that covers it provides a beautiful backdrop in our yard—until it is overgrown. God gives good things in this world for us to enjoy, but if I begin to depend on them for joy and comfort instead of turning to God the giver of these good gifts, they become false idols. They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them.  (Ps 106:36)
  • Even though the ivy looks beautiful, when overgrown it can suck the life out of other plants and trees. When I tolerate minor sin in my life, it gradually grows and cuts off my access to the grace of Christ. I am the vine; you are the If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
  • It’s good to dig up the roots so it doesn’t take over again. It helps to deal with the heart sin at the root of my bad behavior so the bad behavior doesn’t return. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15)
  • We may not be able to destroy all the roots; some are just too deep or wedged into the fence or into rock. In this life, I may always have to do battle with certain besetting sins. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? (Romans 7:21-24)
  • I have garden clippers to help me in this battle against the ivy as it sprouts up again. Thankfully, I am not left to my own resources in my crusade against sin. Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25)
  • If I see ivy vines beginning to wind their way past the boundaries I’ve set, it’s much easier to clip them off right away than to wait until they’ve sent down new roots. When I find subtle thoughts of bitterness, envy, or pride creep into my mind, it’s better to acknowledge and confess them right away and turn my heart back to Christ than to let them simmer in my mind and wind their tendrils around my desire for comfort or pleasure. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
  • As I begin to cut away the vines on the surface, I become more and more aware of deeper vines and roots I need to get rid of. If I had seen all of that before I started, I might have given up before I had begun. While I was aware in general of the enormity of my sin when I first entered into this journey with Christ, I wasn’t aware of just how deeply rooted my sin is. I am glad that God is showing me one sin to deal with at a time, going deeper and deeper in his perfect timing. If I were faced with the utter depth of my sin all at once, I would be overwhelmed. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The ivy battle has been won for now, but now I can see that wretched fern vine with thorns on the stems growing all through the Bird of Paradise. And I know there are other sins that are creeping their way into my life. But that is another story and a task for another day. I will take pleasure for now in the tidier yard and in the grace God has given generously today.