Honey that's not real.
I've always loved the look of ivy covered walls and trees. Like an english garden hidden in time. Siiiigh. So when the giant live oak tree in our front yard began to grow a vine around it, I refused to let my husband pull it away from the trunk. I let it grow around the branches, the bushes nearby and eventually even the windows of our house! It looked like I had my own version of an english ivy garden and I was so happy. But after a long time he knew he had to break my sense of reality. He lovingly told me, "Honey it's not real ivy. It just looks like it." He explained to me that while the vines entangling our tree looked like beautiful vines, they were actually extremely harmful and could eventually choke out the live oak! We had to pull them off and remove the ivy to make sure the tree could continue to grow healthy. I was so sad that I lost my little ivy garden. Or, I guess my pretend one.
It can be hard to let go of our perceived reality can't it? Just let me have my little fake ivy, man! It's easier to pretend than to let go of the way we want things to be.
This last year I've done a lot of soul searching, growing, untangling and pulling off some of my own heart ivy. Perhaps it's because I'm sentimentally reacting to turning 40. But I also think God, my good gardener, just knew it was time to face some hard truths I was struggling to embrace. For example. I've always taken great pride in thinking of myself as extremely vulnerable. I might have listed it as a core value of mine. But one week last year, three people I am extremely close to all shared with me they struggled in relationship with me because I was often not vulnerable. I was shocked. Maybe even a little angry and hurt. My immediate reaction? Self Deception (Lies): That's not true. I am vulnerable. You just don't know me. What's true is how I see myself. But deep down I felt the conviction of real truth- a hard truth. Truth: I wanted to be open and I was willing to share deep things. Also truth: I haven't really known how to be the kind of vulnerable that allows people to see me hurt as well. And this is the truth that gave me a mirror. It forced me to look at a part of myself that was uncomfortable: my own self-perception vs a fuller reality that included people I loved and loved me back. (Mind you I'm still working through this ivy yanking session). Kind of like the ivy covered tree, I have a strong root system. There is good growing deep and I have strength in my branches. God has a purpose for this tree called Me. But I was also covered pridefully with a false version of vulnerability that felt safer and didn't actually let people fully in to my flawed and able-to-be deeply wounded heart. It looked like real vulnerability enough for me to keep going, but because it wasn't the real thing, it sneakily caused damage in my relationships.
The enemy is decently good at this tactic- sneaky almost truths that become so close to true we believe them. John 8:44 says this about our enemy:
"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
And again in 2 Corinthians 11:14: "...even Satan transforms himself to appear as an angel of light"
We have an enemy constantly trying to deceive us into believing something harmful to us is actual good. But in the end it will choke out the truly beautiful fruit God longs to grow in us.
It's painful to look at hard things. It's risky to ask God where we have been self deceived; where we have allowed lies to grow up alongside truth. Thankfully God knows this about our humanity and lovingly offers himself as the Good Gardener, willing to help us prune away the truth from the lies. His purpose includes deeper growth that isn't just pretty for a season, but for generations after us.
So, much like this sunflower, ready to blossom and grow, you were made to bask in the sunlight, free of the things that pull you back.
Would you be brave enough to ask God if you are believing things that seem true but aren't?
Would you be courageous enough to ask Him what (or who!) the ivy is? Would you be tender enough to allow the Good Gardener to pull up the false ivy from your roots so that you can grow into who He made you to be?
You know, every year I have to go back out to the tree and yank up all the vines at the base of the tree. It always tries to grow back, and so fast! It's so stupid annoying- I did the hard work once, why do I have to keep doing this! (Sound familiar?) Sometimes I leave my fake ivy there a few weeks too long because even though I know it isn't real, I think it's still pretty. Oh the patience of God. But here's what I've learned. The quicker I yank it up, the less entwined it becomes with the branches and the easier it is to tell the difference between the two.
Do the work now before you can't tell the difference between truth and lies- between self deception and a fuller perspective. And for goodness sake, make sure you have people around you, grounded enough in reality to say,
"Precious, that's not real ivy, let's get that out."