Poison ivy is one of those plants that one has to wonder what God was thinking when He created it. Maybe its original design was to use it to keep Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden after they ate the forbidden fruit? I’m sure it would have been an excellent deterrant! One run-in with the three-leafed menace is all it takes to make us appreciate the danger found in not being careful with our movements.
Over the last week, I spent about three hours covered from fingertip to toe, removing a wall of poison ivy and Virginia creeper from the old house we’re getting ready to sell. In the two years since we moved out, vines had taken over an entire exterior wall and were encroaching on the roof and the front wall as well. Fear of allergic reactions kept our renters from ridding the brick of the ivy, which is understandable. I was actually thankful to tackle the problem once the plants had gone dormant for the winter. Still dangerous, but not leafy with active oils seeking out naked skin. I have always been careful when I’ve dealt with it, so I wasn’t fearful–just very purposeful with my movements and the way I handled the gloves and clothing afterward. No itching!
As I often do while gardening, I let my mind wander into God’s Word while removing all that ivy, and couldn’t help but think that the chore of weeding, especially of dangerous plants like poison ivy, is not unlike the removal of things that threaten to do harm to our souls.
The weeds in our lives are fruitless pursuits that crowd us and keep us from receiving vital spiritual nourishment. What constitutes a weed is different for each of us, because not all of the fruitless pursuits of this life have the same effect on us as individuals. But if we don’t keep them under control, they will take over. They deprive us of what we need to fully thrive, and we spend our spiritual energies just going through the motions instead of putting our effort toward bearing fruit in God’s Kingdom.
Poison ivy, though … Well, that’s a different matter altogether. Poison ivy is never *just* a weed. It’s dangerous, no matter where it is. One leaf can cause a reaction just as easily as a hundred, so these menaces cannot simply be left to grow wild. They must be forcibly removed, in their entirety, or they will be a danger to every move we make.
There are things in our lives that act as poison ivy to our spiritual lives, and no course of action will do other than to remove all traces of them in our lives.
For some of us, it’s an addiction. It doesn’t really matter what *to*–whatever we are addicted to will dominate our spiritual lives and keep our hearts divided. Jesus said plainly in Matthew 6:24 that we “cannot serve two masters”, and addictions will win over service to God every time.
Still others are poisoned by toxic relationships. Friends, romantic interests, even family members can be toxic to our souls and incredibly harmful to us even in small doses. When there are people in our lives who expect us to overlook sin, we are allowing ourselves to be unequally yoked. What’s tricky about this is that sometimes these toxic people claim to be Christians. They hold onto a false identity but live in a way that displays a splintered allegiance. Make no mistake, these are tools of the enemy of God if they are producing fruit that is not loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. These people are far more dangerous than a wall full of poison ivy. They can harm your soul eternally.
Equally damaging in the Christian’s life are habits that draw us away from our purpose as God’s people. Jesus came to seek and save the lost; He commissioned us to do likewise. We have people to minister to, souls to bring to Christ, and lives to live for the glory of God. If there are habits in our everyday lives that cause any of those missions to be compromised, we need to stop right where we are and get them OUT of our lives.
If we could see physical effects of these poisons in our spiritual lives as easily as we can feel the effects of contact with poison ivy, we would do everything in our power to avoid ever having their dangerous vines growing around our hearts. We need to suit up and both carefully and thoroughly remove every trace of these toxins.
As we enter this new year, let us each face this challenge of weeding our lives with the full armor of God. To face our opponent any other way would be a mistake. We can’t remove it without God’s protection.