Wednesday, June 29, 2016
When we moved in our house, now almost two years ago, there was a fledgling maple tree in the front yard, planted a couple of years prior. It was a "builder" tree, you know, one of those weak excuses to compensate for "landscaping" in a builder's contract.
Among the other changes that we knew we would need to make to the house, the tree was near the top of the list. It appeared that the tree was dying from the outside in. The main branch up through the middle of the tree was stark and bald, bearing no leaves at all, as if the top part of the tree was caught in leafless winter. It was only a matter of time that the other branches would also lose their leaves, a slow gradual death, like an expiration date past due.
When we added some bushes on the barren side of the yard and replaced an already dead-brown evergreen along the property line in the back, we planned for the tree guy to remove the maple on life support and replace it with a tree that would someday actually provide some shade.
We returned one day to find the new bushes and a live evergreen planted out back, but the dying tree in the front remained, mulched as if it was still part of the family.
"I think there is still some life in it," the tree guy said. "Let's wait and see."
Knowing that a dead branch places a strain on the rest of the tree and limits its growth, my husband indulged in his favorite activity of pruning one afternoon, lopping off the dead part. The dead branches now lay in a pile by the garage, waiting for a free ride to the county dump.
It already looks like a different tree.
I thought about that tree, running through the forest in the park this morning. I thought about the dead parts of our lives that we so desperately grasp, the bad attitudes, the well-worn patterns of behavior, the fears and anxieties that have dwelt so long with us they have a permanent address, the dead parts that sap our strength that we so little recognize... or want to acknowledge.
What impedes my spiritual growth? What needs to go? A fear, distraction, anxiety, criticism, or blaming of others. Oh no, LORD, not that! It's my favorite default, comfortable, convenient, and "not so bad." But it is also that which keeps me from abiding in You. Bring it to my attention. O LORD, show me for what it really is, that which is so carefully disguised..
Only when I acknowledge what is the dead wood, then I can realize how much my heart has been distracted.
God prunes, God redeems, God brings the growth. It already looks like a different heart. And that transforms the entire landscape.
Every branch of Mine that bears no fruit,
He takes away,
and every branch that does bear fruit
that it may bear more fruit.
John 15. 2