In People Stuff

Mistletoe

Have you stolen a kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas season?If you miss your chance, come to our house. Because from the looks of the tree in our front yard, it’s Christmas all year.

Our big Hackberry tree has mistletoe growing in it. Far from being romantic, it’s a nuisance.

According to certified arborist Casey Hildebrandt at Hildebrandt Tree Tech, the mistletoe in our tree is a parasite.

The first question I have is how does a parasitic plant start growing on a tree branch 50 feet off the ground?

Here’s how it happens: A bird eats the white mistletoe berries. After his lunch he wipes his beak on the twig or branch and flies off, leaving some sticky seeds behind. When Mr. Bird does his business on that tree or a different one, the seeds he ingested pass through and stick on a branch. Either scenario is all it takes for the seeds to start growing into the wood.

The mistletoe attaches to the branches, sucking water and nutrients away from the tree to survive and even thrive.

Mistletoe on a Hackberry branch

That’s why in the dead of winter our Hackberry tree has balls of green mistletoe in it. Mistletoe is especially harmful during dry seasons when drought stressed trees are already short of moisture. If enough mistletoe takes over, it can kill the tree.

How to get rid of it? Casey says if you pull it off it will grow back. The only way to eliminate it is to cut it out by removing the twig or branch that it’s growing on.

I ask the question carefully.

Very carefully.

Do you have people you need to cut out of your life?

Are there people in your life who, after years and years of your best efforts to maintain the relationship, continue to be all take and no give? In spite of your repeated and constant attempts to repair and restore the relationship, do they insist on holding old offenses over your head to make you feel guilty?

Do you find yourself being manipulated? Is your good nature being taken advantage of? Do you need to mentally prepare before you see them and need excessive time to recover every time you interact with them?

Are they creating negative consequences that splash over onto your family and friends?

And, most seriously, are you allowing yourself to be physically, verbally or emotionally abused?

Simply put, is there mistletoe growing in your people tree?

And to be fair with the question, are you a mistletoe person in someone’s tree?

The Bible is clear that we are to go to great lengths to build and nurture the relationships in our lives. The reciprocal commands of the New Testament, the “one another” commands, are all about that. Love one another. Forgive one another. Serve one another. Pray for one another. Forbear one another. And so it goes.

God wants us to go above and beyond in our relationships. That said, we are human. We aren’t the Holy Spirit in other’s lives, though sometimes we act like we are. There’s only so much we can do. We are not and can not be responsible for the decisions and actions other people make. We can only be accountable for ourselves. Which includes setting appropriate boundaries for our safety and well-being.

In that, the Bible says “as far as it depends on us, be at peace with all men.” ( Romans 12:18 ) It means do all we can do. Beyond that, if after we’ve exhausted every opportunity and possibility to nurture a healthy relationship and it’s still not healthy, then perhaps it’s time to move on. Or as a professional counselor once said to me, “Sometimes we need to get out of the way and make room for God.”

(In the presence of marriage vows, one must not take them lightly. See your pastor and professional counselor for wisdom and help.)

There is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. God commands us to “forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32) . However, forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation. Not all relationships can or should be reconciled. Parasitic relationships are by nature “one way”.  Those that suck the life out of us while sometimes even endangering it are not healthy.

Take some time to do a brutally honest assessment of your “people tree”. See if there’s mistletoe that needs to be cut out. And be equally honest about yourself. Are you mistletoe in someone else’s tree? If you are, how can you stop draining life and start infusing it?

When I came home tonight a 60 mph wind gust blew a giant ball of mistletoe off our tree and dropped it right onto the front step. For a second I had a hopeful thought that if the wind would just blow that hard all night then maybe…

Wishful thinking.

Time to call Casey. My hackberry tree needs help.

There’s cutting to be done.

Todd A. Thompson – December 12, 2012

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