As the sun begins to announce its arrival by lightening the skies of the eastern horizon, I once again set out to tend to the garden before the heat of the day settles on it. It is a mesmerizing experience each time. Walking out the door I'm met with the cool, fresh morning air, the waking crow of the neighboring rooster, and the patter of hickory nut pieces falling from the tree canopies like rain as the squirrels jump from limb to limb devouring them. All else is still. The routine of setting smoking coffee grounds around the garden to keep the mosquitoes away, fills the air with a hazy, aromatic cloud, and while the mosquitoes don't like the smell, the bees love it...and so the morning garden activities begin.
Last year the cucumber vines went crazy in the garden, extending themselves wherever the tendrils could latch on. This caused the vines to be straggly and unhealthy, and while there was fruit, it was smaller than desired. So this year, the decision was made to keep the vines pruned back to the trellis to see if it would make a difference in the health of the plant and the size of the fruit. While familiar with the benefits of pruning, vegetable gardening is still experimental for me and I had not thought to apply this principle to the cucumbers before.
After the vines had grown to the top of the trellis, each new shoot would be quickly cut off. The cucumber trellis is an upside down "V" so as the shoots were pruned, the leaves became lush and thick, and the only fruit I could see were the small starts of cucumbers budding from the flowers the bees had pollinated. For several days I kept watching...waiting... nothing...no maturing cucumbers to be seen.
What was going on?
Then one day, as I bent down to harvest some carrots next to the cucumbers, I just happened to look over at the vines... Is that a cucumber? Peering through a small space between two leaves I had seen something...and as I pushed away the leaves, there before me was a large, plump, delightfully dewy green cucumber just begging to be harvested. I was so happy I laughed out loud and like an excited child on a treasure hunt began to push back more leaves....there was another, and another, and yet another! I literally stood in the middle of the garden holding the cucumbers to my chest, laughing and rejoicing! It worked!
...and then the lesson hit me.
Pruning is a principle used with any plant or tree that bears fruit. Likewise, pruning is a principle that is applied to our own lives.
As we try and reach out in different directions in our lives, we can be met with circumstances blocking our way, cutting us off, or stopping us. Often, we interpret these roadblocks to be negatives, difficult, heart breaking, challenging, and sometimes we refer to them as "sufferings". But could it be that something else is going on? Could it be that we're being pruned? Could it be that in the waiting, in the challenges, in the sufferings, that something is growing underneath all that foliage, out of eyesight, deep in our hearts? Could it be that these experiences are producing something even greater in us?
I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener.
Every branch which is part of me but fails to bear fruit, he cuts off;
and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, so that it may bear more fruit.
As the lesson continued to unfold, and still standing in the middle of the garden joyfully holding the cucumbers in my hands, the first thing I thought about were my own children. While it was easy to see the fruit budding on the surface of the cucumber vine, it was small in appearance and I found myself discouraged. The mature fruit was hidden from my eyes deep in the cavity of the trellis. I was encouraged as God was showing me that we can't always see what he's doing in someone's heart...including our own. He is a loving Father who knows each of us intimately, and he knows exactly how to prune (discipline) us to make us thrive, increase our capacity, and bear life giving fruit*!
My son, don't despise Yehovah's discipline or resent his reproof;
for Yehovah corrects those he loves like a father who delights in his son.
Regard your endurance as discipline; God is dealing with you as sons.
For what son goes undisciplined by his father?
... Furthermore, we had physical fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them;
how much more should we submit to our spiritual Father and live!
For they disciplined us only for a short time and only as best they could,
but he disciplines us in a way that provides genuine benefit to us and enables us to share in his holiness. Now all discipline, while it is happening, does indeed seem painful, not enjoyable;
but for those who have been trained by it, it later produces its peaceful fruit*, which is righteousness.
So strengthen you drooping arms, and steady your tottering knees; and make a level path for your feet; so that what has been injured will not get wrenched out of joint, but rather be healed.
*..the fruit of the spirit is
...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self-control.
So let's be patient as the perfect Gardener prunes each of us, and let's also find ways to encourage one another to allow the pruning (suffering) to do its work...maturing the hidden fruit in our hearts, so that one day the cries of joy and laughter will be heard. The outcome is worthy of endurance, and the Gardener can be trusted.
...let us also boast in our troubles; because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope; and this hope does not let us down, because God's love for us has already been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
From my heart to yours...