Pruning, more like.
I feel like I learned a lot of little things on our Week of Hope trip last week, but one of them is that you can hack a plant almost to death, and as long as the roots are still in the ground, it’ll come back. (Kind of like that Ingrid Michaelson song . . . ) I think I knew this, but I don’t think I had ever been quite such a decided factor in the process. This fact manifested itself in many ways, such as the following:
1. Miss Evangeline said, “Please, will you dig up the rosebush?” She neglected to say that she or someone had obviously tried to remove it before, only with clippers; it was, as some British say, a “titchy little thing,” but when I actually dug, I discovered a root as thick as a small tree trunk. Sometimes you have to make do with what you’ve got, but I’m pretty sure what would have really been necessary to get that thing out was a bulldozer. So I tried an axe, and then the Other Adult sawed at the thing as close to the ground at the bottom of the hole I had dug, as possible. When we were done, the rosebush was gone, but I would be surprised if that root doesn’t send out some other shoots one of these days or weeks or months or years. Later, Miss Evangeline said, ” Did you manage to get that whole root out?” and I thought, Aha! You DID know there was a big old root in there! but I just told her what I told you.
2. Miss Evangeline said, “Please fan the irises.” This, evidently, referred to the fact that iris leaves tend to grow in a fan-shape, and she just wanted them cut back to a couple of inches from the ground. She wanted the same sort of “cutting back” done with a whole lot of other flowers: primroses and even daylilies, which are still in their glory back here at home.
3. Miss Evangeline said, “Please get rid of the ivy.” There were lots of ivy situations around the place, but the one with which I was directly involved was a bunch of ivy which had set up headquarters under the front porch. I think Miss Evangeline is the type of person who, given free help, likes to rearrange her gardens every so often, and in the front likes to change the groundcover every few years. I suspect the ivy used to serve that purpose before the myrtle which she had put in since (and which also needed to be “cut back”), and I found a couple of random shoots of pachysandra evidently from a previous garden incarnation.
4. Miss Evangeline had, as I implied, lots of shrubs. “Cut it right back,” she said every time I had completed one and she wanted me to start on another. “Cut it as close as you can and it still looks good.”
With all of this “cutting back” and all these remnants of plants which had been discarded but refused to go away, I started to think a lot about pruning, and about how the Bible uses it as a metaphor. Interestingly, the theme verse of the Week of Hope was from John 15. (Verse 5, to be exact.) This, of course, is where Jesus talks about being the vine and our being the branches and the Father being the gardener, and how He cuts off the branches that don’t bear fruit, and the ones which do, He prunes to increase their fruitfulness.
Usually I think of this in terms of myself, because I think I know, at least to an extent, what pruning feels like, although I’m chronically unsure that I am even yet bearing any fruit. This time around, though, I was thinking of people I know who are going through really difficult times themselves, some of whom don’t have the larger perspective of pruning. I was imagining if the wisteria that–to my thinking–I accidentally lopped one too many branches off, were sentient and could feel the lopping the way an animal or a person feels. I imagined how probably that wisteria would think, given how much of it ended up scattered all over the ground around it, that it was never going to make it–it was going to die. I wanted to tell all those plants we were “cutting back,” Don’t worry–you’ll be fine. You’ll be better and healthier and even more beautiful this time next year. I’m sorry it hurts right now, but it’ll be worth it. You’ll see.
It’s kind of hard, as a person, to say that to another person who is going through something worse than you’ve ever been through, and it’s all in a series of other “worse” things that I can’t quite imagine. But I do really believe that happens more often than not, and sometimes I want to say, with a combination of impatience and deep concern, Can’t you see that you’re not the one in control anymore? Can you stop trying to hang onto those branches? God’s telling you you don’t need them. Can’t you just let Him take over?
Other times I think . . . if God is indeed pruning these people and not “cutting them off to be thrown into the fire and burned” (which might be what it feels like, I suspect, but from an outsider’s view is not what it looks like), does that mean that, even if they’re not acknowledging Him yet, He’s planning on their being connected to that Vine (Jesus) and intending that they bear fruit? I want it to mean that. I want their suffering–and mine, too–to mean something.