Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Identity Crisis

There are two particularly difficult areas in my garden for me right now. If I'm honest, I've been dealing with these two trouble spots for several years. The problems are going to take a lot more weeding than I currently have time for, so really it may be several more years before they're fully "healthy".

One spot is a raised bed that I built a few years ago and naively planted what I *thought* were thornless blackberries. I *thought* I could keep it under control. I *thought* if I trellised, tied, trained, and trimmed them, I could contain them. Thing is, the nature of blackberries is to spread. To sprawl. To invade every patch of healthy, fertile soil with brambles. They send out runners underground, and the hairs on those root runners will, if not completely eradicated, start a new plant!! This is not good for newbie gardeners like myself who seek to undo hasty planting mistakes. So each year I've battled a new little shoot here and there every few days. It's not bad as long as I am vigilant; but let me miss a week of weeding and boy howdy is the job ever difficult to overcome. Suddenly I've got to do battle with thorns (Thornless? Not so much.) just to get to my tomatoes! Some folks say I should just let the brambles do their thing, that the berries will be worth the loss of my other crops. I'm not convinced.

The other problem area is my flower bed. The weeds--OH the weeds. It will take me the better part of this year to get rid of all of those weeds. One of the main reasons is that I now have a rogue vine creeping in. It blended in with the ground cover for a while, then the green leaves started protruding alongside the wild strawberry (yep, also a weed), so I was pretty surprised to find out when I started pulling up the unwanted stuff that I had a flourishing poison ivy plant taking over my flower bed!! Not cool, man. Just not cool.

The interesting thing I've learned since starting my battle with poison ivy is that it kind of resembles blackberries when it first comes up. I've gotten a bit panicky finding those reddish green pointed leaves in my raised beds. I've also softened a bit when weeding the flower bed, thinking absentmindedly that what I'm seeing *might* just be a harmless wild strawberry.

Problem is, while one is just a nuisance while the other is a real danger, they need to be treated the same way. Plants with an identity crisis that think they are welcome to stay and take up residence require drastic extraction measures. Not just the itch-inducing leaves and vine or the thorny, invasive bramble, but the roots--all of the roots. If I welcome the root, I may as well accept that the entire plant is going to be there to stay.

Our identity as children of God is really no different. If we weed out the poisonous behaviors and thorny attitudes, but leave the roots of sin and Satan's lies beneath the surface, we can expect to see that sin, those attitudes, and the poison of conflicting identity return to flourish. It will crowd out the healthy growth and we will soon become a hot mess of weeds and thorns.

I grew up "identifying" as something God never intended for me to be. I believed I was a mistake. I should have been a boy. I was ugly. I was too small, too scrawny, not girly enough to fit in with the girls but missing the plumbing to fit in with the boys. I believed what the bullies told me about myself.

I believed I was misidentified. I didn't belong. I wasn't good enough. I didn't deserve love. I wanted to just disappear, because I didn't have anything of value to offer.

Those were lies, straight from Satan himself. But I let the poison infect me. For YEARS, I let it eat away at my mind. I let it steal my peace and my joy.

We have people all over this world believing Satan's lies that they were born "a mistake;" that they belong either in another body or in a relationship with a person of the same gender. They allow the father of lies to have direct access to their identity, convincing them that God's purpose for their life is somehow not enough to provide them peace or joy or happiness.

It's poison. It is choking the faith right out of people's hearts and replacing it with an emptiness that this world can only fill with temporary pleasures that bring more trouble than we can ever imagine. The lies spread and sprawl and infect every facet of who we are ... unless we submit to the Master Gardener and allow Him to rip out every invasive root.

We don't fight to change behaviors; we need to aim the Gospel of Christ straight at the heart. Without removing the roots of false identity--whether it's belief that we are a miserable wretch or that we were born to "identify" with something that tempts us sexually--we will never live out our true identity as a child created in the very image of God.

The world would have us believe that we can let the thorny brambles grow, that the fruit of temporary happiness is worth it. But those brambles will overtake anything God planted, and we will be left without the joy and peace He offers in this life, and none of the hope in the next life.

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