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It was a “working in the yard” weekend. Twice per year I take to the flowerbeds in order to trim and care for the bushes, hedges and yes, my beloved spiral topiaries.
I’m not very muscular, nor am I the outdoorsy-type, but I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to shape and create something beautiful. I love to be creative and this was the perfect assignment!
With my enormous electric hedge clippers in hand, I thoughtfully started at the bottom of the topiaries, carefully trimming the layers of growth that had accumulated over the last six months.
It amazed me to see in such a short time-span, how overgrown, how out of shape these beauties had become. I could barely find the outline of the old shape hidden underneath the branches, limbs and leaves that had overtaken the original design the landscaper had created.
As I worked, it felt good to see my trees slowly regain their stately shape and regal identity. Once finished, I stepped back to assess the quality of work as well as to admire nature’s continual process of growth and refinement.
Without someone to care for and nurture my topiaries, they would become unruly, overgrown. They would lose both their beauty and their identity.
Isn’t it the same for us in our lives? Without a loving Father’s attention and care for our growth and refinement, wouldn’t we be a lot like those topiaries, hopelessly out of shape, without identity, without purpose? We would never enjoy the full potential or beauty God designed.
There are three things I’ve learned about gardening that will keep me continually in pursuit of God’s healing and growth throughout my life.
We must grow.
All living things should grow. Living in an age of “I am who I am,” I am reminded that is not how God created any living thing. We were all made to grow. To heal. To learn along this journey. We were all designed in the image of God to be continually transformed into Christ’s likeness. This is our purpose. This is our destiny.
We will either fight against the process or we will learn to accept, honor, and perhaps even embrace the process. Growth can be uncomfortable at times. It can challenge every fiber and cell of our beings. Yet growth will make us taller, wiser, stronger. Growth prepares us to be passionate and purposeful, life-giving, Christ-breathing, dynamic, vessels of God. We cannot get to the next season without acquiring the skills in this moment God knows we need to accomplish His purposes in and through our lives.
I Corinthians 3:7 (NIV) states, So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
Mark 4:20 (NIV) tells us about growth, saying, Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop–some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.
We must be pruned.
Each of us gets a bit overgrown at times. We settle into our habits, our routines. We relax into the momentary mundane. It happens. God knows that in order for us to continually be growing and maturing, He needs to prune away the dead, unfruitful leaves and limbs. He needs to carefully trim the excess, the residue that weighs us down and prevents us from growing, from becoming, from thriving.
Pruning isn’t a punishment. Pruning is an act of love. God loves you. He celebrates you. He longs for you to experience the fullness of your identity. He delights in His handiwork. He declares you beautiful. Whole. Complete.
In John 15:2 (NIV) Scripture says, 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.
James 1:2-4 (NIV) tells us to, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
We must understand and embrace our identity.
Each of us has a unique identity. For so long I resisted His tender pruning hand. I willfully fought against the vision and calling He had for me. I incessantly longed for another’s identity, another’s calling. I saw His beauty in my friends and desperately wanted their beauty as my own. To claim it. To own it.
I was exhausted and empty from my feeble attempts to be something or someone I was not. In focusing so myopically on what God was doing in other’s lives, I was missing out on what He had designed for my life. The beauty, the purpose He had planned for me. Just me.
Such freedom I found in the journey of release —releasing my plan, my ideas, my agenda for my life—and embracing the most glorious journey of becoming. Becoming all that God had designed for me. Becoming what He saw and declared as beautiful in me from the beginning.
Philippians 1:6 (NLT) declares the pure and perfect intentions of the Lord, saying, And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
Are you in a season of pruning? Is God lovingly and tenderly clearing away the old so that new life, new hope, new joy can emerge within you? Are you resisting His work in your life?
We must grow. We must be pruned. We must understand and embrace our identity.
Relax into God’s strong and capable hands. You can trust Him. Breathe into His design and plan for your life. He is so faithful. Accept that the most amazing part of this life is in the journey of becoming.
I wouldn’t want to miss it, for in the journey of becoming, we will find God and we will find ourselves, we will find abundance in our relationships with others. That, my friend, is the essence of peace!