I pruned my roses today. The bushes were still stubbornly clinging to last year's dead and shriveled leaves. The stems were turning brown and stiff and hard. And so I cut them. Ruthlessly, mercilessly, closer than ever before, I slashed them down nearly to the root.
My grandmother stood over me as I worked, pointing out where to prune. Here. There. No, cut it lower down. She had to reassure me over and over again that I wasn't killing my bushes, I was healing them. And when I finally cut low enough I was rewarded with green, with the revealing of new life. They need to be freed of the weight so that they'll have the energy to grow back, bigger and better than ever, grandmother said. Cut off the dead parts. The new growth runs into the dead and it can't grow any farther.
As I stare at my tiny, pathetic little bushes, I wonder if they'll ever really grow back. And yet I trust her. I trust that her seventy plus years of life have taught her more about roses than I could possibly know. And as I gather up the long branches of sharp, vicious thorns, I wonder again.
I gingerly carry the thorny sprigs across the yard and paused to stare at the cruel points. I picture them bent, tied, and fashioned into a rough crown. I imagine them shoved down in anger and mocking onto a tender brow. I wince. I look at my carefully gloved fingers and then I raise my thorny heart in praise.
I ponder just how much I am like a thorny, sharp, half-dead rose bush. I so desperately need pruning. And Jesus knows. He knows just where I need to be cut, just where I'm running into death and unable to grow.
He knows. And he wades in, bare-handed, and grasps me by my sharpest places. His hands are pierced, my sins cut him deep like thorns. He sheds his own blood willingly, expectantly, joyfully to nurture my deep hurt and need.
Yet when he prunes me, I am the one who cries out in pain. I complain, I gripe, I rail against his loving care of my branches. I angrily tell him how much I needed that comfort, that crutch, that seemingly necessary thing in my life. And he lovingly reminds me, over and over again, to hush. To rest. To allow him to remove the things that are holding me back, sapping my energy, and keeping me from growth.
Why do I trust him so ill? Why can't I obey when I know how great he is, how perfectly he loves?
I wonder. I picture myself, a closely pruned bush. I wait.
Soon I will blossom with new growth again.