"For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts.... But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2Cor 4:6-7)
A jar of clay? A pot. An image of earthly humanity. And at my age, my "pot" has been used and beat around. Which makes me what? A cracked old pot, not so much containing God's glory as helplessly hoping that's what will shine through and ooze out in a way that blesses my world.
Now that construction is complete at Spa for the Soul we turn our attention to the long-untended gardens and the yet-wild spaces. Plants moved. A drip watering system installed. New plants added. Old stone painstakingly scrubbed.
And we learn about pruning. About when to do it, and where to make the cuts, and mostly about how more is often better. Gone are the days when I wouldn't cut roses to bring into the house because they were so beautiful on the bush. Gone, too, are the ways we used to let grapes and bouganvillea and climbing succulents string out to scraggly in hopes they would expand to cover arches and pergolas and bare stone walls. Who knew that prodigious clipping would mean ever more bountiful displays?
Now we whack away with glee--and with expectation.
The other day I came to the place in John 15 where Jesus talks about vines and branches and pruning. Where He is the vine, we are the branches, and Father-God is the good gardener. Jesus says that God prunes us so that we will bear much fruit. How many sermons, and yet somehow our personal garden adventures bring fresh comprehension.
"O Father, what would You prune?" I ask. My mind jumps to ways of undiscipline, of time wasted, of exercise neglected, of weight gained. "No doubt You care about these, but Lord, what would You prune? What is on Your mind? Are there habits of thought, ways of un-love, of Your glory unattended that You would speak of to me?"
In gardens, houses, clothing, even hair-styles, I am attracted to the untamed--asymetrical, tangled, and a little wild. In life, too. I enjoy unstructured with runners trailing off here and there. Spontaneous celebrations, life that flows seamlessly around the rips and tears of interruption and disruption, neighbors blessed and friends attended. I resist "tame" and "predictable." There is health there, the strengths and gifts to live with abiguity, to thrive in another culture, to open our home to whoever comes. "But Lord, what would You prune today, and what else might need attending tomorrow?" Because refusal to prune leads not to wild beauty and bounty, but to untidy and fruitless weakness.
"Father, what would You prune?"
The question remains. As I sit with it, I notice that we human "branches" have some say in whether we submit to God's pruning. We can resist it, run from it. To a point. Or we can embrace it, lean into it. Plants experience no pain in the pruning, but for us pruning is suffering. We feel the loss of the contrary dream, the beloved habit, the unhelpful relationship. We struggle to endure through to healing of the cut places and evidence of new growth. We find joy in the bearing of bountiful fruit.