I love plants and gardening and dirt. I love the feel and smell of damp roots and mulch. Really I do. In my imagination I see myself growing delicious and healthy food to feed my family. Sweet patches of strawberries just waiting to be harvested and canned to make homemade jam for my friends. Grapevines full of large, juicy grapes begging my children to pluck from for a quick snack. I see a yard full of beautiful roses and flowers of all kinds where I flit through, like a graceful butterfly, picking flowers for a friend or my dining room table.
In reality, I am a serial plant killer. You name the kind, and I will kill it. It’s by sheer luck the plants that do happen to live on my property have survived. They live in a perpetual state of terror that I am either not going to water them or drown them once I actually remember to water them.
When we moved into the home we live in now on our little acre, I immediately began to think of myself as a modern day Laura Ingalls Wilder. I just needed a bonnet. This past spring I allowed my farming fantasy to take over and instead of waiting until I at least had a greenhouse, (or just some basic plant knowledge) I ran out and bought a few victims…er, I mean plants. Just some simple plants, a lemon tree, some strawberries, a patio tomato plant, some herbs. I also bought into the whole, “grow food from kitchen scraps” Facebook post from some maniac whose mission in life is to try to make people like me feel like an idiot. Mission accomplished. I selected a pathetic looking onion that was left in my fridge from around Thanksgiving (hey, it was already sprouting!) cut the bottom off of it, and unceremoniously buried it in some dirt. The tomato plant almost immediately was stricken with blight, the deer in the neighborhood abruptly mowed down my strawberry patches, and the onion now looks as though it narrowly escaped a nuclear disaster with the mutations to prove it. The only thing it appears I can grow with any success is Texas burrs and poison ivy.
It certainly seems ironic. My husband and I both are insanely allergic to poison ivy and we have enough of it growing on our property to keep a witch with a cauldron busy for years. Until recently I had no idea what to do to get rid of it other than taking a blowtorch to the nasty stuff. As I am unwilling to run the risk of torching my house, I usually try to just keep my distance. But the other morning I was suddenly inspired to try and do something about it. I got on the internet to do some surfing, er, I mean research and found out that burning it is not wise because just the smoke can make one sick. So scratch the blow torch idea. I discovered that pulling it up is the only sure way to get rid of it. Reading the article was making me reflect on this sudden and insane urge I had to mess with the stuff. However, not one to be easily deterred, I went into my closet and put on every item of clothing I could find, donned some rubber gloves, and headed outside for this mad task I was apparently going to undertake. I looked for a gas mask or hazmat suit in the garage but was out of luck. Summoning up what little courage I had, I set the Coconuts on the front porch to watch for entertainment instructional purposes (with directions to dial 911 if I should start to appear to be turning into a balloon) and began the task of pulling up these nasty little plants.
After getting over my initial terror, I started to really pay attention to these pesky creepers and their root systems. First of all poison ivy is a vine. It can grow along the ground, a building, up a tree, up a fence, someone’s leg. It can also grow up in clumps to resemble a huge bush, tree, or Bigfoot. It can eventually take over an entire area, choking out anything good. But the stuff you see above the ground is just the tip of the iceberg. Poison ivy has a deep root system. As I began to dig down, I found some of the roots running several feet long beneath the surface of the dirt. Unlike a common dandelion weed that just comes right up, root ball and all, the poison ivy root system has to be dug up. Every part of the plant is poisonous. From the leaves, stems, to the roots, you don’t want to touch any part of those suckers.
And as I started to sweat, the Lord reached through my panic and started to teach me.
Hebrews 12:14-15 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
Roots. Some produce good fruit and beautiful flowers; others produce thorny thistles and poison ivy. Just like the earth, we too have roots. What is ours producing? Unresolved offenses, unforgiveness, sin, wounds and hurts left unhealed all lodge themselves deep in our heart and take root. From that root grows bitterness and bitterness will bring forth resentment. The bible defines bitterness as gall, poison, extreme wickedness. Faith, love, and peace are slowly choked out, replaced with anger, malice, and even hatred. We become barren in our relationships, barren in our prayer life, barren in ministry.
Bitterness will keep us out of the presence of God here and in eternity.
Michal, King David’s wife, learned all about barrenness by the years spent cultivating her bitterness. After being left by her husband, David, then given away (again) by her father, and finally, torn away from what appears to be a happy life by King David, resentment brought forth the fruit of resentment.
2 Sam 6:20 Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”
The Bible says that she was barren until her death. Bitterness brought forth fruitlessness.
Simon the Sorcerer had to learn the hard way about bitterness. He was in the midst of one of the greatest revivals of all time yet the roots he had spent years sowing, perhaps with sin and resentment, kept him from truly experiencing the miraculous.
Acts 8:20-23 says “But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
I looked over at the Coconuts watching me eagerly from the porch in the hopes that I was going to begin to balloon up like the Stay Puff Marshmallow man. I was struck with the thought of how much bitterness affects our loved ones. I started to talk to them about forgiveness and how important it was to release our hurts and sorrows to the only one who can heal. I held up portions of the roots that I had pulled out of the earth and told them that they had to pull up any roots in their hearts that anger had sown.
By this point, my fear of having an allergy attack was gone, but it was replaced by a sobering understanding of the responsibility I had to my children. Maybe I won’t do a great job of teaching them how to properly fold a fitted sheet, or how to bake bread, but I had better teach them this lesson. Repentance. It’s the only thing that will pull up bitterness by the roots. Sadly, there will be plenty of opportunities in this sin hardened world we live in for me to revisit this lesson with them.
I went into the house to carefully change my clothes. I debated burning them but instead opted to throw them in the wash with hot water and lye soap. And that’s the thing. Bitterness contaminates everything we touch. It oozes out of every decision, every relationship, and every conversation. Digging up the roots in our lives is paramount. Even if it means risking an allergy attack. There’s always Benadryl for that.