Written by William Jones
My mother has worked in horticulture for most of her life, designing, planting and maintaining gardens, etc. As kids, we spent countless hours in the summer months helping mom in this God-given task: watering plants, pulling weeds. I remember one of Mom’s clients calling us her ‘little garden gnomes’ every time we were brought to help. As you can imagine, I developed quite a distaste for anything plant-related or garden-oriented because of these years! All that aside, I learned a valuable lesson: gardening is humbling, and it requires patience.
This summer I decided to take up gardening again, mostly out of the desire to pick up a new hobby, and partially out of the hope to redeem a childhood sore-spot. There is a patch of dirt along my driveway that is currently not used for anything; in fact, it is a bit of an eyesore. Naturally, I decided this would be the place where I would try grow some watermelon.
I planted the small plants in May, and began the journey: watering, weeding, repeat. May and June passed. The plant grew a few leaves and a small vine started to appear, but nothing more. I was quite discouraged. I went away for vacation towards the end of July, and when I came back, the vine had broken free and sprawled across the driveway. By mid-August, a little watermelon had formed. I harvested the one and only watermelon that the plant produced on September 17.
I work at a small church in Oshawa, and have come to see church ministry in the same way I see gardening. Often times, you pour your soul into the work of growing something. You water, you weed, you slave over this little plant, and maybe a few leaves grow. It drives you to the point of despair, so you let the whole thing go, and suddenly, something in this little plant makes it grow and sprawl across the driveway.
I realize now that even when that plant was showing little signs of growth, it was developing the ability to grow quickly and to produce fruit. Once the roots had grown deeper, once the leaves had developed and were able to take in light, this plant was ready to go for it!
In John 15, we’re reminded that Jesus is the true vine and God, the Father, is the gardener, and that “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.”
When I consider what has been growing in my life, my mind doesn’t go directly to an image of a sprawling vine. Although I consider myself as being in a season of growth, I would also say that I’m in a season of pruning. Pruning is no fun. It requires patience, it demands humility, and it forces me to acknowledge that I am not the gardener. If that isn’t hard enough, pruning requires us to live in a holy tension between the plant that is and the plant that is developing. We all face the temptation of taking the easy route—remaining the plant with many leaves that looks wonderful, but that remains fruitless nonetheless. Allowing God to sever the branches in ourselves that are not contributing to the growth and health of the plant is uncomfortable, if not painful. It is humbling. It requires patience.
For me today, pruning is continually being humbled in a staff role at a small church that is working together to find our place and ministry in the city of Oshawa, and to follow Jesus faithfully and obediently in that. It also means learning to let God lead His church, which for me, involves getting out of His way. It means learning to trust that God knows what He’s doing, even when it feels like things are falling apart.
Whatever random patch of dirt you find yourself planted in today, perhaps it is worth asking yourself and asking God what needs to be pruned. As much as I’d like to think that the pruning season will end, there’s a part of me that knows it is a continual season, and so I trust the Gardener who made me, who knows me, and who calls me beloved.