It's is summer, that wonderful time when teachers finally get around to doing all the stuff they put off during the school year. For me, today included pruning some bushes in my yard that were long overdue for some attention. My plan was to just shape them up a bit, turn my box hedge from a Walmart bag shape back to their intended box shape, then I planned to tackle the azaleas.
At first, I just tipped the edges, but a few branches were really getting in the way so I had to trim a bit more. That's when it became evident that I had a problem. When I removed those branches, the underbelly of the azaleas was revealed and it wasn't a pretty sight. A twisted maze of branches that really needed a trim. No wonder my azaleas haven't bloomed in years!
Now, don't get me wrong. My azaleas looked VERY healthy from a distance. They were huge! We even used them to decorate at Christmas. Well, sort of decorate. We'd toss some lights on top of them...our version of "spirit". But I was soon to find out our "healthy" bushes in fact weren't doing all that well at all.
Admittedly, I know very little about plants...my notoriety as a plant killer goes far and wide. I'm pretty sure there is a wanted poster of me in some plant post-office somewhere. Because of this, I asked a few facebook friends and they assured me that it was indeed the time of year to cut the bushes back. In fact, a good pruning could make them grow better and actually begin to bloom again! Armed with that knowledge and my clippers, I started the long hot process, and I learned a few things. This will be my clumsy attempt to explain my random thoughts for the day.
#1 - My plants hid a number of long forgotten treasures! There were two volleyballs and one soccer ball. The volleyballs just needed a bit of air, but the soccer ball, I'm afraid it had been forgotten way too long. It was hard as a rock! In my life, I wonder what things have been forgotten in the seemingly healthy overgrowth of my life. For some, a breath of fresh air is all that is needed, but some may have been neglected way too long. Reminders of times past...only memories.
#2 - I also discovered 2 pens, a few shingles and a wash cloth. The shingles I can understand, but the other things? How did they get there? In the process of pruning in our lives, we may discover things that we have no idea how they got there. It's really not important how they got there, they don't belong and simply need to be removed.
#3 - As I pruned, I discovered a pretty feathery fern that I'm pretty sure blew in with Katrina. It may look harmless and delicate, but in the shadows of the azalea's overgrowth, it had choked out one rose bush and was in the process of overpowering another. The "healthy" azalea was hiding a very unhealthy problem! I have to wonder - what excess in my life is allowing some pretty little fern to destroy something I truly care about?
#4 - Some plants "bite" when you try to prune them. I now wear the scratches and thorns of a vicious vine that was hiding amidst the branches. It wrapped around my arms or legs and "grabbed". It seems in the pruning process, not everyone involved will think it's a good idea...especially those with evil intentions who don't want their "host" to change. (It's that whole, "we battle against spiritual wickedness in high places" thing.)
#5 - Now that the bushes are gone, I noticed the house really needs painting. It's not awful, but it's definitely noticeable. Is it possible that the excess in one area of my life "hides" some basic upkeep that I need to be doing in other areas?
In my yard, it's the azaleas. In my life, it can be any number of things. I have the potential for excess in so many areas of my life. Work, possessions, free time, money (okay - there's not a lot of excess there). It may look like things are great - even growing at impressive rate, but if they don't show "fruit", maybe they are just hiding some other, more important things. I want my life to show fruit - spiritual fruit. That means that at times, there's gonna have to be some pruning going on.
I'm pretty sure that if I had been pruning on a regular basis, it would have been a lot less painful and some of the "problems" I discovered would never have had a chance to grow....or destroy.
I'm so thankful for summer when I can stop for a moment and "prune."
He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
they will stay fresh and green,
15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”