Monday, April 21, 2008

Planting and Pruning

It's that time of year! It's the time of year we crawl out of the darkened house, and bask in the sunlight. It's the time of year I sit on the back porch rocking in my swing which is my haven. It's the time of year I look around my back yard and say, "hmmm, needs plants." And it's the time of year I go buy lots of bedding plants and dig away in the dirt happily to my heart's content. I love planting. I really can't afford to plant as much as I would like. So, I have my typical areas and pots around my back porch. Basically, I think I like 'piddlin' in the dirt.

I like tending plants as well, not that I am very good at it, but I have had a few established plants that I try to nurture as best I can. One spring I had a very unruly Rose of Sharon. It was growing up all wild in a chain link fence around the driveway. It wasn't in a very good spot, and it had dead vines intertwined with the live ones. But in spite of, or maybe because of, the mess that it was in, it had some of the sweetest blooms. A few of my friends tried to talk me into cutting it down, but I liked the plant. Maybe it reminded me of me a bit, a little wild and unruly but surely there was something redeemable...

So, one fine Spring day I took a set of pruners and started to work on this poor plant. As I am trying to clean out all the dead branches, all the while being fought off by the rest of the plant, and as I am pruning back the wild and unruly vines, God is speaking.

John 15 speaks of God tending vines. These verses began to flood my brain, and I don't even remember committing them to memory!

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:1-7)

Meanwhile, I am plugging away and my pruning...snip, snip. And then, as my brain is prone to do, it begins wandering and thinking of some of the most peculiar thoughts...snip, "hmnnn, I wonder if it hurts the vine as I prune it." Snip, snip, snip..."why did all those branches die, while the rest of the plant looks pretty good." Tug, tug, "hmmmm, and all the dead branches are down around the base, near the root...they must keep the new branches pretty choked off." And on, and on the thoughts rolled as I snipped away on the long unruly branches and tugged the dead ones out.

Then, as only God can, I hear a still, small voice... "maybe the vine knows that what you are doing is for its own good." Snip, snip. "Sometimes you have to get rid of the dead stuff that weighs you down, so you can really grow!" Tug, tug. "Sometimes you need to prune away the unruly parts so you can produce prettier blooms." Snip, snip.

Then, I began to see! I was going through some interesting things at this time in my life. It would have been easy to see these things as a punishment from God, or trials to make me stronger, but that wasn't what was going on at all...I was being pruned. And over all the pruning wasn't painful. It was more painful to carry around dead baggage with me. I was more painful for my life to be out of control, especially running out of control and away from God. It was actually quite comforting to know that I was being pruned, because it meant that I was redeemable.

My Rose of Sharon flourished and was there when I moved away from the house. It was still in an inconvenient place, so I don't know if the next tenants cared for it or not. I remember that the blooms that I thought were so sweet before were even sweeter after it had been shown some attention and care.

Aren't we all that way...a little unruly at times, in need of pruning...maybe even need to clear out some dead branches. But don't worry, pruning hurts less than carrying around all the garbage.

Just a lesson I learned from the Gardener of Life.

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