the evil of ivy

I love being outdoors, but I'm not really a fan of yard work. So when I was home pulling ivy off our old, rotting arbor this week, I was determined to at least find a good spiritual parallel to make it worth the effort. With ivy, that's not hard to do. Ivy is a lot like sin. 

Personally, I've always thought ivy is pretty. Old houses covered in the green leaves seemed like a fairytale of some kind. And that's the first part of the parallel that stood out to me. Sin also can look attractive and harmless. Each of us face different temptations, but I know there are many sins that are not even considered "bad" anymore. Jesus commanded us not to worry, but in our culture of busyness, we almost wear worry and stress as a badge of honor, saying, "I'm doing so much in my life!" Jesus also told us not to store up treasures on earth, but that's something we have a very hard time coming to grips with. Stress doesn't look wrong, and having earthly treasures looks like pinterest or magazines. But these sins, like ivy, don't just stop there. 

The problem with ivy is that it kills its host. In writing this post, I googled "how does ivy kill trees." The author of the Home Guide article I found doesn't even know the profound spiritual truths she wrote in her answer! 

English ivy climbs up trees and walls by attaching with suction-cup-like roots called "hold fasts," sometimes spelled "holdfasts." These little attachments are so strong that they often need to be removed from walls with sandblasting. Although the ivy itself does not kill a tree, the resulting actions after the ivy has started growing can. By creating competition for nutrients, water and sunlight, ivy makes a tree weaker and more prone to disease and branch dieback. English ivy also contributes to added moisture around the bark, attracting bugs and accelerating rot. It grows from the ground up, so branch dieback is usually evident at the bottom of the tree first. The imbalance in branches, along with the added weight of the ivy at the top of the tree, makes a tree more prone to falling during drastic weather patterns.
Wow. Following our analogy of ivy as sin, we find that sin can become a "holdfast" once it is allowed to grow. We all know that sin is incredibly hard to eradicate from our lives and hearts. Maybe we need God to actually sandblast it away, despite how painful that might be. This author said that "ivy itself does not kill a tree," perhaps an interesting statement to the fact that the individual act of sin may not be the worst, deathly part of sin. Rather, as stated in the article, the effects of the ivy are what bring death. Ivy "creates competition for nutrients, water and sunlight... [making] a tree weaker and more prone to disease." In other words, one of the deathliest elements of sin is in how it gets in the way of our source of life: relationship with God. When we are in a state of unrepentant sin, we cannot receive the abundant life Jesus wants to give us. When our desires are for the things of the world, we are not drinking of the Living Water. And as our vision becomes focused on sinful things, the ivy leaves block out the Light of the world. All of these things together weaken us, leaving us "prone to falling" when the storms of life come. Sin will destroy us. No wonder God hates sin. 

Suddenly I had a lot more determination in my ivy-killing task. I knew from years of living with ivy that trimming it back does nothing; it will come back strong again. It has to be dealt with at the root, just like sin. 

I started to cut away down near the roots, trying my best to pull up the very foundations of the ivy. Sometimes I did. There, I had it in my hand, the roots were pulled up and the ivy was dead. But I looked back at the arbor, still partially covered in ivy. The leaves were vibrant and green. Apparently they hadn't been told yet that they were dead, I had won, I had killed them at the root. 

But isn't that just like sin? For those of us who has believed in Jesus, sin is dead. Jesus has won, and He gives that victory to us. He killed it. He defeated the law and sin and death. We are not longer slaves to sin. Romans says we are "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." But... why do I still sin? My attitude against my siste
rs sometimes doesn't feel defeated by Jesus. My selfishness and greed feels alive and well. If this ivy analogy has anything to offer, it tells me that yes, your sin is dead. It just doesn't know it yet. 

And I guess this is where I simply preach to the devil that he is dead and gone, defeated. This is where I ask my Heavenly Father for strength to fight the sin that still seems so alive and powerful. And this is where I wait, knowing that in time those ivy leaves will wilt and die, and I will continue growing into the tree He made me to be. 

"But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 15:57


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