Saturday, March 28, 2009

the master gardener

to hear the whispers of God in the meanderings of life.

we have a little lemon tree that i planted outside our bedroom window a couple years ago because of my intense obsession with lemons and the delight of the smell of citrus leaves. i also planted at the same time english lavendar with the soothing woodsy smell and dainty purple blossoms. unfortunately, i have neglected my plants over the past year or more, other than to blow the sea of fall leaves, and i mean sea of leaves, from drowning them and all the rest of the landscaping that we worked so hard on creating ourselves.

two very different problems face my two favorite plants.

my little lemon tree for some reason didn't produce fruit last year. i decided that this year we must have fruit, so i have taken it on as a project. as i looked at the tree trying to decide how best to help it thrive, i noticed two problems. for one, there were yellow, sparse, dull looking leaves. yes, it has survived two winters and beat the odds that were told to me by my neighbors who said how hard it was for a young citrus tree to not freeze, but it was needing some help. second, a nasty vine type of weed with the burrs that get stuck socks and shoes was overtaking the ground all around it and threatened to choke my tree with its long tendrils.

neither problem with my tree were untreatable, but quite the opposite. with some dedication and hard work over the past couple days, it is looking much better. i tilled the soil around the root ball and mixed in some citrus fertilizer to get the soil back to the ph balance that a lemon tree needs for those glossy green leaves. i have pulled, dug out, and cut back the nasty viney weeds that threatened to choke my dear tree and keep me from the juicy fruit i desire.

as i worked this afternoon i felt the Lord speak to me so strongly. i felt very much like the lemon tree. i need so badly to be fed richly to have the new growth and to produce fruit in my own life. "for man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." i need that regular diet of the Word of God to not get dry and yellow and sparse. yes, i may make it through the winters of life, but i will not produce the new leaves and buds and blossoms in the spring season that are needed in order to have the fruit if i don't tend to the feedings. and so, i am committed to open the Word, call out for wisdom and revelation, seek the face of the only One who can give me life, and commit to see growth in the areas i struggle in and am tempted to blame on personality, preference, or my culture and surroundings. Jesus said, "if you love me, you will obey my commandments." it seems pretty straightforward. however, sometimes it takes me so long to get it through my head to just do the things He laid out in scripture to know Him and love Him, just like it took me so long looking at my poor little lemon tree to actually take the time to find the simple solution to the yellowing dry leaves.

also, i feel my life is majorly in a time of weeding. Jesus compared the weeds in one of His parables to the worries and cares of this life. oh wow. did this ever come to mind today as i worked. it was interesting to me how some of the weeds came up easily and others were so deep that i couldn't even pull with decent strength, but had to dig down below the root of the weed to pry it out. i know that for me there are some cares of life that are more easily uprooted from my heart than others. right now i am in a season of the roots of certain worries that i have struggled with on and off for years, which i would work really hard to get rid of but would come back again after a season of good rain and watering, being dug up so that even the deeper root system can be rid of and not just return. i can say that it is not any easier in my opinion to be the soil from which the weed is taken out of right now that it was to dig and pull and tug today at those stubborn weeds.

i also was reminded today that the seed He plants is always good seed. the thing that can vary is the ground in which the seed is planted, and it isn't until the rain comes and waters the ground that the soil shows what it lacks, what was hidden, or what just needs a bit of tilling. it is painful to have Him dig deep in the tender regions of my heart, but it will be so worth it to allow His work instead of resisting. i am personally hoping that i passed the test this time and that those things that have felt like they have choked me at times when life gets tough will really be gone for good and that i will have victory in those areas in my life because the root system has been taken out.

the other plant that i felt the Lord speaking to me through was my lavendar. you see, i have done special nothing for my lavendar but it has thrived! good seed and good soil. little to no weeds. fruitful in all seasons. the fragrance of the blossoms brings me the joy and calm that i had hoped for. yet, because it has been so thriving, i was suddenly faced with the realization that something needed to been done about this plant. my uncle said about a month ago a little phrase in a sermon on sunday morning that i have thought of several times since and thought of this afternoon while pondering how best to care for my fruitful lavendar. he said, "the reward for fruitfulness is pruning."

pruning. i resist it as a novice gardener as much as i wince at the word when thinking of the Lord applying it to my own life. so many times i have equated pruning with punishment. somehow, i thought, i must have done something wrong for a door to close, or an opportunity to end, or my desires to seem to get further out of reach rather than closer. seeing what i had believed to be of value in me and my life taken away confused me and is still very painful even when i know fully that God is involved in the closing of doors or ending of seasons. and yet, when i looked at my wildly growing full of blossoms lavendar today i felt the whisper of the Lord to my heart, "I am not punishing you. I am rewarding your faithfulness. pruning is my reward for fruitfulness."

you see, for my lavendar to retain its beauty as a plant and to not grow woody and stubby in the center, i must cut it back. i have read that i need to cut it back as much as 1/3 to 1/2 of its branches, careful to leave some green, but as close to the wood as possible. that seems like so much cutting to me! i hesitate to cut my beloved plants, yet know that it will be the best things i can do for them in the long run.

i feel so pruned right now. i am so raw even writing right now because my perspective right now is still so small on the grand picture of what God is wanting for my life to look like. areas of fruitfulness, faithfulness, and what i felt were the blessings from the hand of God are being cut back right now, and oh how they are being cut back! but, oh, the comfort in knowing that it isn't because i haven't had good soil in my heart in these areas, nor have i done something wrong, but this is the reward i have for being faithful in what was given to me. as tears flow for saying goodbye to that which the Lord has cut away, i am at a strange peace that something very beautiful will come of this pruning. how good He is, and how rich are His rewards for those who seek Him.

charis

2 comments:

Lori Richan said...

I love your analogies here, Charis. What beautiful insight where you have replaced your thoughts of being punished with more self-supporting thoughts of being richly rewarded!

Now a tip about your lemon tree....Mine is abundant and in the winter I put the old fashioned big outdoor Christmas lights on it to keep it from freezing. I only turn them on when its going to freeze. Also, pruning it back too hard can stunt the fruit crop!

Charis said...

thanks lori! i love the lemon tree tip too! i will definitely tell bill ours needs to be lit this winter. :)

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