The Pruning of My Heart

I gazed out my kitchen window as my husband, Mark, climbed up his ladder to begin cutting away the bare branches of our Chinese Persimmon tree in our backyard. Watching Mark wield his saw this way and that way, as each leafless, fruitless branch fell to the ground, I caught his eye and smiled. In due time, I knew we would reap the efforts of his labor.

I let out a sigh and my eyes fell to the unwashed dishes I had been tending to. Staring into the sink, the tears began to fall from my eyes. I too, was being pruned, I thought. Oddly enough, around the month of February, trials or changes occurred that resulted in the cutting away of relationships, bad attitudes, transgressions, or all of the above. Recalling many of those "painful pruning seasons" that day, I shook my head in utter understanding.

Looking up once again, I remembered the first time we laid eyes on that odd looking tree just three years before. Its disappointing harvest, with only six persimmons, seemed to take forever to ripen in the fall. What use was that tree, except for a bit o' shade, we thought.

When February came that year, Mark chopped away at the barren limbs, without much knowledge of why he should, except for hearing that pruning was important. The bare branches, reaching for the sky, seemed to cry out for attention anyway; therefore, he snipped and shaped away.

Through the next two seasons, our leafy tree did provide protection from the sun's torridity. Moreover, we noticed that not only were the leaves fuller; the harvest of fruit nearly tripled. My sister in law (who worked in a grocery store) recognized the fruit, informing us of its high-priced value. "Hmm," we thought, "how strange that something that seemed undesirable, could actually be of worth to others." Consequently, we bagged up the 15 pieces of edible solid mass, giving away most to our friends and family.

The following pruning season Mark went about his dutiful task of cutting away the empty outgrowth once again. By fall, our Persimmon tree produced such an abundance of apple-like sweet fruit, it took us hours to pick and bag it all. Amazing, we thought, from six pieces to over a hundred! Who would have known that to cut away -- is to bring forth?

While I stood there at my kitchen window, watching the barren limbs fall into their dumpster destiny for the third year, I clearly saw the handiwork of our Creator through the hand of my gardening husband. A verse from the Bible popped into my mind:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. (John 15: 1-2).

How many times had I struggled in uncomfortable circumstances, making the inevitable process more painful? How many times had I wept over my losses, unable to embrace their meaningful purpose? How often had I cried out to God to stop the pain, rejection and death that surrounded me, only to find myself a better and wiser person, for the experience?

Consequently, the pruning of my heart resulted in lasting lessons. Each time a piece of my fruitless life was cut off, I learned to blossom. Through the testing of relationships, I learned patience. Because of health afflictions, I learned to intercede for others more deeply. When a loved one passed away, I learned true empathy and compassion. Whenever my feelings were hurt or my expectations shattered, I learned to let go and forgive. A familiar verse; "as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17), finally made sense to me. Furthermore, if my life was going to produce spiritual fruit, I had to be pliable when God reckoned it was time to cut away the old and make room for the new.

In raising my own children, the human spirit appeared truly fragile to me. I remember taking great care not to break their spirits as I tended to their stubborn wills. Having survived that parental pruning, those young adults have often come to Mark and I, thanking us for many of those tough decisions we made when they were growing up. The fruits of our labor were evident in their lives; it was like getting a glimpse of the heart of God for us - His own children.

I looked again at our faithful Persimmon tree, standing dormant and still that day. The sun would shine through its empty limbs for a while, bringing nourishment and warmth. It would not look pretty for sometime, nor would it give shade. However, the day would come when its lush leaves would flourish once again, casting an umbrella of comfort against the heat of the day. Its abundance of sweet fruit would soon bless many that pass by, freely satisfying their taste buds. Those who knew its value would be grateful.

I wiped my tears away, and relinquished a nod of acceptance to my Creator. This trial will pass, I surmised, and I too, will feel the warmth and nurture of the Son in my life. Though some may view me as dormant for now, the time will come when I will be able to comfort and shelter others with the same comfort I have received. Consequently, as the next pruning season for me approaches, I determine to struggle far less, and trust more; I resolve to cry fewer tears, and endure with increased faith. I decide to "be still and know that He is God."

Yes, the pruning is necessary, but it is only for a season. I can hardly wait to taste the fruit of His labor.

2004 Ginger Boda [email protected]

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