Lessons from the bramble: observations of an occasional and untaught gardener #11-15
“You must be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” – John Owen
11. When pulling out a bramble root, it seems almost inevitable that a small part will be left behind, which can of itself sprout up. In the same way, you cannot split a bramble root and hope to kill it.
- Dealing with a bit of sin is no way to kill sin. Very few sins will ever be entirely eradicated in this life. Our best efforts often leave a little of the root still in the ground, and we will generally have to go on battling with a given sin all of our days.
12. When we clear the ground of brambles, we need to cultivate it, or brambles and other weeds will grow there first.
- When we kill sins, it is tempting to sit back and think that the job has been done, when it has only begun. In the place of sins, we must cultivate graces, or sins will find their way back. There is no neutral territory: ground that does not grow graces will grow sins.
- Do not think to deal with sin without cultivating grace. There must be a putting on alongside of a putting off.
13. Brambles grow among other plants, and will eventually choke or overwhelm them.
- If you do not completely destroy particular sins, they will grow back alongside your graces, and perhaps intertwined with them. It is grievous to see true grace so tangled up in a habit of sin as to be less distinguishable, or made worthless and ugly.
- If sins are allowed to grow among graces, it will be that much harder to remove them.
- Sins allowed to grow near graces and gifts will eventually choke or overwhelm them, and rob the graces of life, and the gardener of any pleasure from them.
14. As anyone knows, brambles are painful to grab hold of.
- Why, then, is it any surprise that sins, when grabbed hold of, cause pain and distress? And yet it is usually necessary to grasp the bramble in order to deal with it. The more pressure exerted, and the more robustly, the more painful it will be in the short term. Do not expect mortification to be anything less than painful.
15. It is wise to use at least some protective clothing when attacking a bramble patch, and yet that rarely will let you off without a few scratches. In particular, you will find thorns breaking off in gloves, trousers, sleeves and the like, and causing minor but real distress down the line.
- It is wise to protect yourself when dealing with sin, but unlikely that you will come away without some damage.
- Dealing with sin can leave thorns behind. You might have dealt with the main issue, and done it well, but there are likely to be subsequent niggles. For example, you might do some real damage to the bramble of harsh and angry speaking, but the effects of that sin will be felt down the line, in defensiveness from those around you, or their expectations of your sin. These might grieve you, but they are better than having the sin still rooted and growing in your heart.