I am a farm boy and I love planting things. We live in the suburbs, but I have a house with a half-acre lot. We have a decent sized garden, and I have planted blueberry bushes, raspberry bushes, blackberry bushes, and pear trees. I have also planted dozens of decorative trees, bushes, plants, and flowers. I love planting things!
Permission to Plant?
About 4 years ago I was getting ready to attend a Wild at Heart event called “Become Good Soil Intensive.” We received a few assignments to complete before we came, and one of them was to plant a tree. So naturally I was stoked! The permission…no…the requirement that I plant a tree! “Morgan told me I have to buy a tree and plant it,” I told my wife. As you know, God often uses the Holy Spirit in your spouse to break through to you. “Where?” she asked. I won’t go through the whole discussion, but after that conversation I opened myself up to God’s leading and realized that I didn’t need to plant a tree – I needed to cut one down. We have a big yard so I could have easily planted a tree, but any additional trees I would plant would be in the way of our baseball/football/soccer games.
Persuaded to Prune
Meanwhile, there was a sickly and dying pine tree that obviously needed to be cut down. So, I borrowed a friend’s chainsaw and got to work. I had the help of my two sons (3 and 6 at the time) and the neighbor boy who was intrigued by my chainsaw and wheelbarrow. I dug around the base of the tree so that we could cut it off below ground level and remove as many big roots as possible. This preparation was tedious – I wanted to yell ‘Timber’ and be done – but I am learning to take those extra steps first and try to enjoy them. Then I sawed off branches while the boys hauled them away. Then finally the “Timber!” moment. Pretty soon, all that was left was the patch in the yard with no grass. Space!
A New Path
My yard was a pretty good metaphor for my life at that point. I had been busy for decades. I got myself involved in everything, through the combination of people-pleasing, ambition, varied skill set, and desire to serve God. But my biggest problem was that I also loved everything! I enjoyed doing so many things that it was hard for me to stop any of them. God dealt with me about this, and I came to the realization that I couldn’t do any one thing wholeheartedly because I was too busy doing everything else. As I entered that season of pruning, I allowed some of the less fruitful areas of my life to be taken away. And it has made all the difference!
2020: Year of Pruning
This year has taken pruning to a whole new level! Things that we felt were immovable (March Madness, church services, school, even Tax Day) all fell before the chainsaw of COVID and flattening the curve. There have been so many painful discussions and decisions, and we have stopped doing so many good and fun things. But if we look through the pain and try to find the growth, I hope we can open our eyes to the lesson I learned from my sickly pine tree. I feel that through the loss of this tree God showed me that even something in life that feels as painful as pruning can lead to something good. As we open our hearts and minds and hands to pruning, we lose our fear of the unknown. We can trust that if God prunes it away then it will make room for something even better.
What things in your life would God really like to prune? Are you afraid to let them go?