By Kayla Johnson
My husband and I own a home that has a wild backyard. It is overgrown with wildflowers and weeds, tangles winding up trees, and old, broken things covered with masses of leaves and untouched greenery. It is untamed and lovely.
But the yard has one thing that I don’t love. Poison ivy. The ivy looks like innocent ground cover, but it is a beast that will take over everything and squelch out all life if we don’t constantly hack at it and keep it at bay. I’ve spent numerous hours trying to pull up the stuff. It’s back-breaking, sweaty work. And no matter how hard I try, the ivy grows back before I can get rid of it.
So after awhile I just began to ignore it, and let it roam free. As long as it’s somewhat contained behind barriers, I can live with it. Or so I thought.
One day, when I came into our bedroom with a basketful of laundry on my hip, an unusual sight caught my eye. There, by our bed-stand, growing out of the baseboard, was a tiny green leaf, shooting out from the wood. The green mass outside our house had actually broken through, unbeknownst to me, underneath my house, and there it was. A tiny leaf curling up plastered wall. Poison ivy. In my house.
And I’m finding, old hurts and sins and broken up nasty stuff in my heart can be like that. I try to ignore it, but it won’t be ignored. And no amount of do-goodism and perfectionism and toughing it out and behavioralism can cure my heart. You can’t tamp ivy down. You can’t cover it up. It has to come out at the roots. And the problem is, the job is just too big for me. I need Jesus.
I need him desperately like a flower needs air. I need Him to pull that toxic stuff out at the roots. Jesus said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) He has invited me to learn from Him by taking on the yoke of being His disciple. On my own, no amount of working and straining and machete wielding and pulling myself up by the bootstraps will do the trick. But being yoked together with Jesus means he is carrying the weight, which means that, ironically, taking on the weight of His yoke makes my burden light.
He came to save. He came to set us free. Freedom from guilt and shame and brokenness and regret. He came to have relationship, not religion. Oh for grace to let His truth go from head to heart and walk in liberty. We all want a clean space in our souls for flowers and fruit and good things to grow. But we can’t do the work. It’s too much for us. We need to let Him clear the way, and only then can peace and joy and rest and real freedom thrive.