Look at all of that lovely green! So full of life . . . and most of it shouldn’t be there! This is what it should look like:
Just a brown stump, being used as an anchor for another flowering shrub we’ve got growing by the front door. When we bought this house, it had three climbing hydrangeas covering three different areas of the exterior. It makes for a picturesque view from the street, but you can see in this picture what it does to the wood underneath. Not so lovely to look at.
So in the fall we cut two vines down, but kept this much of one as an anchor. We walked right by it every day through the spring and summer, not noticing that the stump hadn’t given up. Little by little it was taking back territory, and had even begun climbing the wall again! Now it’s mid-August, and I had to go in today to clean it out, removing it from where it’s not welcome.
How often do we have unwanted trespassers in our heart, not noticing the damage they’re doing as they move to take ground in territory that is not theirs to take? By not being vigilant against sly invaders, we hand ground over without even noticing that we’ve done so. Once they’ve moved in and set up shop, we may not even recognize them for what they are, because they’ve just become part of the landscape. This picture is the same stump, just before I cut off all of the green growth again. It doesn’t look the same at all!
What might heart invaders look like? Here’s a short list:
Pride comes from comparing ourselves to others, and finding justifiable reason (or so we think) to look down on them and feel better about ourselves. This can be a sneaky intruder, for sure! Have you felt like a better person than anyone in the past week? A quick test would be to think about your view of other drivers while on your way to work and back each day. I fail that test frequently. Another way may be to think about how you judge different characters you hear about in the news. It’s easy to think we would never make choices like those people, even though we’ve never been in their situation. Pride is insidious, and it is also detestable to God. It’s first on the list of things he hates in Proverbs 6:16-19:
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
We can dig this pride stump out by remembering that we have all missed the mark of God’s perfection. None of us will ever be good enough to deserve all that He’s done for us, or all that He will do for us through eternity if we have put our trust in what Christ has done for us. We are only wretches saved by grace! We have no merit to stand on in ourselves. Knowing that, how can we look down on a fellow human? We are really no better than they, when we compare ourselves to divine perfection.
This might seem like an obvious one, right? But what’s behind the lies may be harder to identify. Some lies can seem so harmless, but why lie in the first place? Why even tell a small lie? What leads us to be untruthful with others, and sometimes even ourselves? In my opinion, it can have a great deal to do with the first item on our list: pride. We may lie to keep ourselves out of trouble, as well as paint ourselves in a positive light. In either case, we don’t want others to know our shortcomings and failures. We also may lie in order to get something that we don’t deserve. If you catch yourself being even slightly untruthful, take a moment and try to identify the motivation behind it. Like that ugly stump, it may have covered itself with something more deceptively pleasing. If you need help digging this one up, you’re in good company. David prayed,
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
David asked God to help him discover what was lurking in the depths of his heart, and so can you! God will answer the prayer of the one seeking after Him.
Worry is synonymous with fear. We take something we’re afraid of, and focus on the possibility that it may happen. It can become so much a part of our way of thinking that we don’t even realize we’re doing it! Why do we do that to ourselves? Our worry won’t change anything! Jesus asked,
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? (Luke 12:25-26)
Philippians 4:6 encourages us this way: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This list of three is just a place to start. God may show you more things in your heart that He wants to help you work on eradicating. Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s not attainable in our own strength! But the Holy Spirit is able to help us if we are willing to humble ourselves, admit our weaknesses, and ask. Spend time in the Word of God, letting it take root in your heart, and giving it free rein to choke out the invading weeds that have crept in.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
God wants His best for you. I encourage you to take Him up on His offer!