Saturday, December 29, 2007

on pruning

Christ used parables to speak to his audience in a way that they could apply to real life. I'm sure it was very effective then, but these days, you have to have a whole sermon describing what those stories meant to the people because we just don't relate.

Take pruning for example. I know enough about plants and the ways of life to know that dead branches should be removed from a plant because they aren't healthy. And I also know that when you cut part of a plant away, what is left will thrive. (I know this personally because, one year, my dad cut back the tree in our back yard to keep the branches safely away from the house. The next fall, there were pecans ALL OVER the yard that I had to help collect because all the tree's energy that year had been put into producing its fruit.)

Somehow, though, I didn't connect the two until today. I'm quite certain that I've heard somewhere that you can cut off a branch from a tree or bush, plant it, and it will grow into its own tree or bush. (if you know this to be untrue, just indulge me, lol) Looking at our wild rosebush in the back corner of the yard, I had the sudden urge to give it a try. The bush was probably ten feet tall and at least as wide, due to about six very long protrusions from its base with timid little branches at the ends that might put out a dozen pink roses a year. (as you can imagine, sometimes you almost need a ladder to reach them) It was time to help it out a bit anyway, so I grabbed an empty sherbet bucket and my new hack saw and wire cutters and went to work.

There was nothing wrong with those branches, most of them. I guess when I think of pruning, I think of dead, brown branches that need to be cleaned out because they don't belong there. But most of these were green with a handful of leaves and a rosebud even came down in the fray. I sawed off the two or three really thick "arms" that stretched horizontal across the yard and generally gave it some shape (still tall, so it can be seen from the kitchen window) before going in and making sure that the little dead branches were done away with. I had a feeling that the rosebush, were it to have emotions, would be very annoyed at me and that's probably why it injured me so, as I was working. Then suddenly all those sermons I'd heard made more sense than they ever had.

Sometimes God comes and breaks off the dead, lifeless bits of us that are ugly and have no business in our lives. These could be pet sins that we have a hard time letting go of but are glad to have them gone. But sometimes we try to spend too much energy on perfectly good things that cause us to grow in (what God knows to be) the wrong direction or quite literally spreads us too thin and far away from our nutrient-supplying base. Sometimes, for no reason that we can see at the time, we've reached so far out from ourselves for those things that they must simply be cut off in order that we can grow healthy and full and bear fruit.


There might be another analogy about how, once we let things go, they too can flourish in their freedom, like my branch planting experiment... but I won't go there for now. ;-)

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