First Signs

• Michelle Joy • June 30, 2020

I’m a houseplant lover. Okay, borderline houseplant hoarder. There! I said it! I admit it! I love looking at them. I love caring for them. I may even talk to them from time to time. I keep thinking I’ve bought my last plant, but somehow I keep finding spots for each new plant.  I intend for each plant purchase to be my last; I really do, but….I just keep finding that perfect one to add to my collection. 

So, you can imagine my horror this week when I noticed one of my four spider plants was not doing well. Some leaves were curling up. Some leaves had brown spots. Some looked lifeless. The poor plant wasn’t acting itself. 

Upon further inspection, I saw that the plant was covered in spider mites (gasp!). I immediately started researching what to do because I knew this couldn’t be good. The plant looked awful! I quickly scoured the internet for help. I read article after article. “Spider mites are one of the most destructive houseplant pests. They can heavily damage or even kill a houseplant in a very short period of time.” kept leaping off the page at me. Urgency. That’s what I felt. I had to do something… NOW!

I quickly started inspecting all of my houseplants for spider mites because the articles said they could spread quickly. Spider mites suck the sap out of the leaves causing them to shrivel up and die. This process will kill the houseplant and kill it quickly. You have to take quick action. I needed to isolate my infected plants and begin treatment while watching my other plants for infestation. I had no time to waste. 

This whole process brought on so much anxiety. I had spent hours planting, separating, repotting, feeding, watering, and simply tending to my plants. I had so much invested in them. How could a sneaky little pest come in my house unannounced and start wreaking havoc on my plant family? 

I hate to admit it, but my first instinct wasn’t to pray about my plants. Yes, houseplants are important to me, but I was pretty certain this wasn’t an issue about worth praying. Instead, I flipped back and forth between panic and pity party. 

Finally (I’m so sorry, Lord), I decided to pray. As I prayed and listened, the Lord really started calming my heart. He also started speaking to me. I quickly realized He had some lessons for me in this seemingly small to most problem. 

So, here we go. Here are the lessons God has been teaching me through my spider mite infestation:

  1. Are we regularly inspecting ourselves below the surface (under our leaves)? I wasn’t inspecting my plants for spider mites. It has been years and years since I’ve had issues with them. I was so caught off guard. This is how we can be in our lives. We need to make it a practice of asking the Lord to search us and reveal to us areas where we may have a stronghold, an infestation. We can pray the scripture, Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Ask the Lord to show you what might be hiding right beneath the surface. What is hiding below the surface and is only visible to others when it gets really, really bad? Do you struggle with judgement, control, insecurity, fear, anxiety, gossip, anger? It is better to deal with these things before they fully take over and suck the life out of you.

  2. Are we paying attention to the symptoms? When we are inspecting our lives and allowing the Lord to shine the light on areas where He wants to bring freedom, are we truly looking for the symptoms or brushing off what He brings to light? I’ve been shining my phone flashlight on each of my plants multiple times a day.  Sometimes I think I see a spider mite or a web and I try to talk myself out of it. Maybe it’s just dust. Maybe it’s nothing. In Hebrews 12:1 it say, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” We have to strip off those spider mites, those webs, when we first see them. Don’t let them multiply. It’s easier to deal with spider mites when you first notice the symptoms rather than waiting until it’s a full-blown infestation.

  3. Who/what has access to you? This has been a big one for me lately. Who am I allowing to speak into my life? Who am I allowing to direct my path? Whose opinions and judgments am I allowing to ring the loudest in my ears? Spider mites are serious. They will kill my plants in just days. I’ve also learned about soil gnats. Yes, they are annoying, but they won’t kill my plant. There are people who will kill your dreams. You need to ask the Lord who you are supposed to give access to on a deep level. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” There are others who might be a bit annoying like those soil gnats, but they aren’t going to kill your dreams. They are often there to help you be more focused, more determined, and often help you refine and define your dreams. Ask the Lord to help you decide who does and does not get access to your life on a deep level.  1 Corinthians 15:33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

  4. What is the treatment plan? If I had any hope of saving my plants, I had to act fast and have a safe treatment plan. The same is true with us and our hopes and dreams. God has a plan for us. He has things for us to do. The enemy also has a plan for us. The word says he wants to steal, kill, and destroy us. We need to act fast. One part of our treatment plan must be reading the Bible. We need to make a habit of reading the Word of God. In Proverbs 4:20-22 we read, “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”  We also need to have people in our life who we trust. We need people who will pray for us and with us. In James 5:6 it says,  “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

I have my infected plants quarantined outside. I am inspecting them closely each day. I’m treating them with a special spray. I may lose one or two of them because I didn’t catch the spider mite infestation in time. But, I will be more diligent now with my other plants. I will watch for the first signs. I have been inspecting the underneath of all the leaves because that’s where they like to hide.  I’ve been shining a flashlight on them. May we do the same. May we be diligent about inspecting our lives. May we watch for signs that things aren’t okay. May we be okay with allowing the Lord to shine a light on our lives, revealing things bit by bit as we are ready. 

Dear God,
Please show me areas where I need your gentle care. What symptoms am I showing that could affect those around me? What is sucking the life out of me? Who am I allowing access to me that shouldn’t have access? Search me. Show me. Help me. I give you full access to my life. 

Psalm 139:23-24 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.