This was not like any book on Job I'd ever read. There were almost as many things about which I disagreed as there were things I agreed. I'm not going to go into why, because it isn't important at this point in time. What is important is that God brought me back to Job as I continue to process the Purple Martyrdom. And even in those areas where I disagreed, the Spirit was bringing deep things to the surface.
The first one came in chapter five, where the author stated that the nature of worship is praise in pain. Job knew to praise God in the midst of his pain. He didn't speak about God ... he spoke to God. And while it took many chapters worth of time, God spoke back to Job. Because they had a relationship.
We know that Job was in deep pain -- from his property loss, the deaths of all 10 of his children, and the sores that covered him from head to toe. And this is before the pain brought on by his "friends" ... we'll get to them another day.
At this point in my notes I have two things written:
- Job is the patron saint of the purple martyrdom.
- Pruning does not just cut off diseased or dead wood. It also removes growth that will detract from the health or fruitfulness of the plant.
Pruning a beloved plant is an exercise in "severe mercy" (how many times has this phrase of C.S. Lewis found its way into my thoughts in the 29 years since I first read Sheldon Vanauken's book by that title?). As severe as death to the majority of the new growth -- as merciful as preserving the health and shape of the bush and the size of the cane left to bear bigger blossoms.
What to value more: sheer quantity of rose blooms or better quality rose blooms -- not to mention sustainability and control of disease and pests.
Anyone who really loves their roses must prune. Period. But they must do it at the proper "kairos" time and take their "chronos" time doing it.
If someone were to observe me pruning my roses, they would see me down on the ground, looking at every single cane:
- was there disease?
- what direction will the new growth take?
- what is the desired shape for the bush this year?
- how much cane should be left?
- what canes must be removed completely?
There are few things more stunning than a rose bursting with blossoms.
There are few things more stark and ugly than a pruned rose bush.
But you can't have the first without the second. And a true lover of roses knows this well.
* * * * * * *
God was proud of the prize "rose" named Job. And as beautiful as his righteousness was and as fragrant as his life was ... God loved Job enough to allow the ultimate in "severe mercy" pruning -- everything but his life (and his wife ... and let's not beat up on her too much -- everything Job lost was something she was mourning the loss of as well).
And while the pruning was harsh, the growth God brought to bear was unbelievable. Not only were all Job's losses returned (with interest), his 10 new children were even more blessed than the first 10! But more than this, God came to answer Job. And even though God did not actually answer Job, Job felt more than answered. He gained wisdom and insight -- and shared it with us:
I know that you can do everything, and that no purpose of yours can be withheld from you. ...I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ...I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore I abhor myself; and repent in dust and ashes.* * * * * * *(Job 42:2, 3, 5-6)
The Gardener prunes the rose -- because the rose cannot perceive its situation aright, nor can it take up shears to make the proper cuts. It must submit to the hands of the one who chose it and planted it and nurtures it so that it can be what it is meant to be -- beautiful -- and do what it is meant to do -- bring honor and glory to the Gardener.
Papa is the Master Gardener ... and this wee abbess trusts completely, even when the pruning shears are being sharpened....