No plant on God’s green earth is more stubborn and troublesome than holly.
I know. It symbolizes Christmas and Christ. The red berry represents Christ’s blood shed for our sins, and thorny leaves represent the crown of thorns He wore as they crucified Him on the cross. I get it.
I can admire a beautiful holly wreath–in someone else’s home or hanging on the neighbor’s front door. But I have zero tolerance for holly as landscaping.
Have you ever tried digging up a holly bush? The roots disappear into the center of the earth. We had eight beautiful, well-kept holly bushes across the front of our house. We decided to replace them with flowers and plants. So I had to dig up all eight holly bushes. Have you ever seen the root ball on one of those wretched shrubs? I had to ask a friend with a truck and a wench for help. After I dug down to the root ball, we hooked her wench around the root ball close to the ground and yanked them out. Over a two-day period the truck and wench pulled all eight holly bush out of the ground.
Of course our front yard became a quagmire with four-wheel tire ruts. Replacing tire trenches with grass became another project.
In the Fall the holly bushes and their memory disappeared and we had a nice garden planted across our front yard.
For many of us our sins run as deep as those gnarly holly bush roots. Maybe not blatant sins. Maybe just wrong thinking or reliving regrets from the past. Or an attitude that needs adjusting.
What do we do? We try to conquer our sins ourselves. We believe we can get in there and dig them out if we pray more and read the Bible more and attend more seminars and read more books. Eventually, we tell ourselves, we’ll have victory over our sins.
Charles G. Trumbull calls that victory counterfeit. In his book, Victory in Christ Trumbull says, “any victory over the power of any sin whatsoever in your life that you have to get by working for is counterfeit. Any victory that you have to get by trying for it is counterfeit. If you have to work for your victory, it is not the real thing that God offers you…as long as you try to live the victorious life, you won’t live it.” ¹
The harder we “try” to conquer our sin, the more frustrated we become. Simply because we can not conquer our sin. We can’t be victorious. We don’t have what it takes.
But Jesus does. Paul tells us how: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:20. Until we realize we can’t enjoy victory over our sins on our own, until we realize that Jesus is the only one who can give us victory over our sins, we will continue to struggle. We’ll continue living in bondage to our sins.
I was struggling with deep, nasty holly bushes and roots. I could not get rid of them until I realized I had to rely on someone else to do it for me. Jesus can give you victory over the roots of sin in your life when you realize you can’t do it, but He can.
¹ Victory in Christ, by Charles G. Trumbull, © 1959, CLC Publishing, Fort Washington, Pa., pg. 34-35.