I walked up my neighbor's front steps and knocked at her door to ask permission to plant irises on the spit of land that divides our driveways. As I waited for her to appear, I noticed that her hanging basket was a matted tangle of brown, decomposed leaves, with just a few green ones struggling to survive. I thought to myself, "I know exactly what happened here: Barbara doesn't even see that the thing is dead. She thinks it is merely not doing very well."
I have similarly kidded myself with hanging plants that I kept aloft on the porch, squinting sideways at them every day as I passed, to tell myself they were not deceased but only ailing. The stranger coming to my porch (as I came to Barbara's) would be able to see instantly that there was more brown than green in the formerly decorative basket, but I would still see mainly green, with a few anomalous browns.
This is like the middle-aged man who keeps parting his three strands of hair. Everybody in town thinks of him as "bald," but when he looks in the mirror he thinks of himself as "balding." This is the power of self-deception.
The sight of the former fuchsia (if that's what it was) made me smile with self-recognition on a spiritual level. The Bible says that when we are invested in a sin that is actually doing us harm, we have an amazing ability to kid ourselves about how good things are going. Our life becomes increasingly unmanageable and our sin is taking a toll on our health and our family and our finances, but we're still squinting at the dead hanging plant and thinking it will get better soon:
"Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not; gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not. The pride of Israel testifies to his face; yet they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him, for all this" (Hosea 7:9-10).
Have someone in your life who can tell you when your plant is dead.