I miss gardening. I used to do it all the time when the boys were little. I even had a vegetable garden each summer where I grew corn, green beans, zucchini, and a variety of other things that I felt like experimenting with that year. I like being outside and getting my hands dirty. I rarely wear gloves, because I want to be able to feel everything that I am doing. The moisture of the dirt, the sticky white sap from a jasmine vine, the thorns on a rose bush (ok, sometimes I wear gloves to deal with these), taking the chance of sticking my hands into a mess of weeds and having no idea what kinds of creepy crawlies could be in there.
I get introspective when I garden and it allows me time to really dig in and reflect on life. For years I have thought about the similarities of God and gardening. Jesus uses this analogy quite a few times in his sermons and parables, because it was something that was easily relatable for the people of that time.
He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
As I stand there in my yard-work attire, I start to survey my plants. I am looking for those that will need some attention. I’ve planted all of my plants over the course of many years and I have tended to their needs since the day they were planted. As I think about what needs to happen in the next season for them, I take many variables into consideration. What kind of a year have they had? Lots of water, a year of drought, too many frosts, what kinds of insects have been plaguing them?
I start systematically, one plant at a time. I cut off dead branches and flowers first. Then I get deeper and start pulling out all the weeds that have started to infiltrate and blend in with the plant. Depending on what kind of plant it is, I might even go further and cut off certain branches that will end up helping the others to grow stronger and flourish. It is not an easy job for the gardener. It is a messy job. My hands get dirty, there is always blood at some point, and I get blisters from the pruning shears and from pulling those invasive weeds. But I do it, because I love my plants and I want what is best for them. I know that come summer, they are going to look fabulous and glorify all my hard work. People don’t look at a garden and think, “Wow! That garden sure has done a good job making itself look soo beautiful.” They think how beautiful that garden is and that the gardener must love it and tend to it often. The garden is always a reflection of the gardener.
If the plants were left to themselves, they could branch out where they probably should not. They get mixed in with some weeds that will look pretty at first, but then choke them out and steal all their nourishment. Parts of the plant can then become very weak and unable to cope with pests and weather. There were times when I thought a plant was completely dead. Those are some desperate times. And desperate times call for desperate measures. I will go out and cut everything back to almost nothing, then give it some good nutrients, some tender loving care, and time. Some of them have come back…better than ever. Some of them were just too far gone and just could not pull though. Into the green waste bin they go.
My plants do not know the reason that I am cutting and pruning them is to help them be even better than the season before. That I am helping them get rid of unnecessary branches or suckers that are draining them of vital energy. Energy that they should be using to grow from the strong foundation I have provided for them. Of course, plants do not have minds and cannot think or realize any of this. I am their caretaker, their gardener. The master gardener knows what is best for them and can even make a course correction mid-way through a growing season if the plant is growing in a direction that is not going to be beneficial to the plant or the gardener.
It is a relationship that is fully reliant on the master being in control and the plant focused on growing and waiting on the gardener to tend to its needs.
I really don’t like when it’s pruning season for me. When God see’s my potential and knows that there is no way that I can get there with all these dead branches and suckers I’ve got going on. Left to myself, I can even allow some weeds to start growing. No big deal. There are only a few. But in no time, I’ve got a nice patch of weeds all around me, draining me and not allowing me to get everything I need to thrive. At first, the pruning and cleaning up can feel like punishment or even abandonment. I am not seeing God through my weed patch and realizing that He is my master. He see’s what’s going on and now has to systematically go in and do some work. It can take a while and I can be left feeling vulnerable and raw. But He is there, watching, tending, and caring for me. He see’s my full potential and knows that this is just a season. He sees what is ahead and knows that the pruning and firm foundation He has given me will make me into His beautiful creation that will ultimately reflect and glorify Him as the Master Gardener that He is.