Pruning by Chainsaw
We had some crazy, overgrown rose bushes on the north side of our house. Eleven years ago when we moved here, the roses were lovely. Planted by a true gardener, they had colorful blooms and were pleasantly pruned. Then we arrived. I am sad to confess that I am not much of a gardener. I had six children, homeschooled, and although I liked flowers, I didn’t have enough interest or time to learn about something as fussy as roses.
The plants grew larger and wilder. On occasion we pruned them or treated them for aphids, but for the most part, they grew and we were happy with whatever colorful flowers managed to appear. Then Mimi decided to have her wedding reception in the yard and it was time to whip the roses into shape.
My friend Amy came over and looked at the huge, overgrown plants. She said it was time to prune them down — way down — to knee height. The question was how to go about it. The roses were covered with thorns and had long crazy branches.
She looked at me and said, “Well, Russ could take a chainsaw to them.” A chainsaw? Did I hear her correctly? I thought roses were delicate and needed to be handled with care. But these had grown so out of control that the severity of a chainsaw was needed to bring them back to health.
Early one Saturday morning, Russ put on old jeans, a long sleeve shirt, eye protection and gloves and fired up the chainsaw. It didn’t take long before the bushes were reduced to dead-looking sticks only a foot high. We wondered if the entire garden would still look dead at the time of the wedding, and talked about setting multiple pots of flowers in the area to add some color and hopefully obscure our dead rose garden.
I fretted about it for an hour or so and then forgot about it. Not many weeks later, one of the girls called me outside to show me that green shoots had emerged and were growing on the roses. There were even a few small flowers blooming. Week by week those shoots grew and by the time of the wedding, roses were blooming on the plants that had appeared dead.
As I drive the 300 miles to Seattle and back again for appointments for my girls, I have nearly six hours each way to use in some productive way. My boys keep my iPod filled with sermons and music, and most often I listen to series of sermons by Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. As we looked at the rose bushes, I remembered a sermon he preached about suffering, specifically about pruning. He talked about suffering being the tool that God uses to produce fruitfulness in us, just as pruning produces fruitfulness in plants.
I’ve watched Russ prune our apple trees. Carefully selecting unneeded branches, he cuts them cleanly away with his pruning shears. But these roses got me thinking about just how brutal pruning can be. When Russ took a chainsaw to the roses, it looked like he was surely killing them. Branches and thorns were flying and roses ended up in a heap to be burned. It was not delicate or methodical, but it was necessary. Today we stood in front of the roses and marveled that they are blooming and more beautiful than they have been in years.
And so I ponder suffering, pain, and fruitfulness. Together with our children, we suffer and struggle and yearn for healing. It is coming, ever so slowly. The chainsaw seemed to almost wreck our lives. It has been painful and brutal, but fruit is beginning to emerge. Some days it is nearly beautiful.
God knows. He loves us. He wants us to be fruitful. He makes it possible.
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