I started with the ones up at the top of the bush and worked my way down, and the more dead branches I removed it seemed I just kept finding more dead branches deeper in the bush. Some branches were dead all the way down to the bottom cane of the bush and were dried brittle thorny sticks and easy to remove aside from the thorns. Trying to save the parts of the plants that were still alive while removing dead and withered canes from the middle of these overgrown bushes meant getting poked and scratched by the thorns many times. Most these scratches didn't hurt much after the initial scratch, but one kept hurting with each movement of my finger, till I looked at it to find the thorn was still stuck in the scratch and I removed it. The thorns also made it harder to get a branch out of the bush after I'd clipped it. The thorns of the live branches would catch on the thorns of the dead branch I was trying to pull out. Often I would find where I wanted to cut a branch and I would then have to cut it in several places to get it untangled from the rest of the bush. Other branches were only dead at the top. Some canes looked greener than others, and when I followed some brown canes to their branches up higher they eventually did turn green and produce leaves and buds. After two days of solid work on these bushes I could still see much more that needed work, but our trash bin was completely full of the dead branches I had already pruned away, and the thorns covering the branches prevented me from trying to smash them in tighter. This forced me to take a break and give my wounded hands a rest.
The pruning of an overgrown rosebush is very difficult. I decided to watch a video about pruning rosebushes, and it looked so easy, but the man in the video was working with a bush that had obviously been regularly pruned and maintained. What a contrast it was from the painful experience I was having.
Churches claiming to belong to the scriptural Church of Christ have become overgrown with dead branches that do not serve true followers of Yeshua. From pagan holidays and traditions of men to the judgments of others based on things that can't be understood without really experiencing it, there are many dead things that need to be pruned out of our hearts, to make room for the life giving unconditional love that needs to grow, if we are ever to become like Christ as his true disciples. This can be a painful process. We had a very fun Easter last year with our children, and this year we had a Christ centered Passover. Passover was a beautiful and enlightening experience that brought me closer to Christ. I worshiped with Davidic dance, and I fell short of being completely yeast free, but I did my best with a family that wasn't observing kosher rules with me. It felt surreal walking through stores and seeing things that once made me excited for a coming holiday, which now instead, made me feel distinctly different from the people around me. I found myself wondering why more people didn't educate themselves about these holidays and choose to replace them with God given Holy Days. But I was one of them only last year. My eyes have been opened, and I can't close them again. Once a dead branch has been found and cut out, it can't come back to life again. It is time to open our eyes and cut the dead traditions of men out from our hearts. Make room to be filled with unconditional love, so it can have a place to bloom in your heart.
What you trim first is up to you, and between you and God. I've been actively trimming false traditions and unbelief for a year and a half now, and would be lying if I said it hasn't been a painful process. But the joy and beauty that can grow when the dead works are cleared away is well worth the painful process of clearing it out. Just as Paul, I too have a thorn in my flesh that must be discovered and removed before full healing can occur. Some traditions have become so entangled it might take multiple cuts to rid ourselves of one false tradition as we find deeper ways it was intertwined with truth and life. It is a process, and a much longer one than we likely anticipate when we first take it on. But the good news is that we don't take it on alone. My children have eagerly helped me in little ways with trimming the dead out of my rosebushes, and likely the efforts of my children could be a parable for my efforts to get rid of unbelief and dead works, and there is an older more experienced gardener doing much of my pruning for me, working on my heart in ways I will only understand when I look back. What are the dead works you need to prune from your life? What is your thorn in your flesh? Who is helping you tend your garden? There is likely more than one helper. Take some time to praise the gardeners of your heart today. Shalom.