Last week if you'd asked me, I'd have happily told you our garden had eight rose bushes. Six came with our house; two were a Mother's Day gift this year. I love my garden---especially the flowering plants. I've always been a sucker for fresh-cut flowers throughout the house. I would have told you that every week I spend lots of energy watering, pruning, and weeding them. And while they were admittedly a bit scraggly, I would have told you they were mostly healthy. I had big dreams for these bushes ten years from now, being loved by another family (because we'll probably be in a home with a REAL garden and not this sneeze of a lot).
All of these statements--while honestly meant--would have been totally wrong. Saturday morning I noticed that the strange growth I'd been seeing had gotten worse---way, way worse. I took a picture and posted it to Facebook after failed attempts at googling a diagnosis.
Very quickly my friends correctly identified my problem: Rose Rosette Virus. It is pervasive, fatal, incurable, and destroyes your roses inside-out. Many people (businesses too) don't notice this guy until it's devestated their landscaping. Often homeowners are too apathetic or distracted to remove the plant even when they know its sick. So this diseased plant withers, even as it appeares to be growing like crazy (albeit with an abundance of thorns, ugly flowers, and abarent shoots), all the while infecting every other rose bush in the vicinity. It's incideous and it's destroying North Texas. Yes, I'm the rose-bush appocolypse crier holding the cardboard sign, "the end is near!"
Well I might have cried (a lot) and died a little inside, but I removed that sad bush and moved on only to discover another plant infected. And another one. And another one. And another. Five of my eight bushes were showing obvious infection symptoms and had to be removed. Three were possibly infected but until its 100% clear, I didn't have the heart to kill them outright.
This morning I took bags of pillaged bushes to the curb and looked up at my sad, empty beds. They looked so alive and full before. They looked like they were just going through an accelerated summer growth spurt even while they were slowly dying. To the casual viewer, I'm irrationally destroying a perfectly beautiful yard. But I was actually saving it. Mine and my neighbors and the couple a block away. Because one sick bush infects another. And as I was looking over all the empty space I clearly saw my own heart, a similarly small plot growing things, often unexamined.
This is Rose Rosette Virus by another name, and even more deadily--my "good" works. I do things for the wrong reason, growing plants of good works for others to see and praise and think, "Wow she's spiritual and righteous and sooooo holy." (I'm being sarcastic because not even a crazy person would think my pathetic attempts at being like Christ is "righteous" or "holy.") So these plants grow and grow and although they seem alive and growing they are actually diseased and malignant.
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.3Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.4" - Rev. 3: 1-4
And those around me can catch my "works-based" faith and spread ihe infection to others, all of us dead or dying inside by our self-reliance. God, rip it out! Cut it down. Burn it. Don't let me grow in death when you are so alive and waiting to give life to those who look to you.
"but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." - 2 Peter 3:18
"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:17-19