Tomatoes!

I love gardening. I love hoeing in the dirt so everything is in tidy, picture-perfect rows. I stand and admire the fluffy weedless dirt around the growing plants and declare it good. This year I spent a ton of time really working it. The plants were lush and green. During one week in June, my tomatoes had grown tremendously and I marveled at these amazing green bushes. I had to add stakes for support they grew so big. The number of tomatoes on the bushes was fantastic. And then, seemingly overnight, they over-grew. I could no longer even walk between them. They were up to my chest and bigger around than my arms could encircle. One night a wind driven storm pushed them in one direction with their heavy stalks and fruit. I struggled to get them all back upright without breaking them from their own weight. I suddenly realized my pride in their size was misplaced. An “expert” reminded me, “don’t grow foliage, grow fruit.” So much energy had gone into these massive bushes, can you imagine how much better if it went just into the fruit? And so the pruning began. I snipped and clipped till much of the green pretty stuff was gone and what was left didn’t look that gorgeous. In fact, it might seem kind of ugly. I made big piles of unwanted foliage. But the fruit was unburied, and the sun could now get in to ripen them. In days, the tomatoes got bigger and more plentiful, even though the garden itself wasn’t as pretty. Every day now I bring in half a bushel of goodness and put it away for winter. I liked the way it looked before a lot better. I like my life that way too. Neat and pretty, everything presentable. The peacemaker in me loves order and kindness and goodness, beautiful and full. How easy it is for me to forget that pruning isn’t always pretty. That sometimes I have to let the pruning happen, in spite of how it looks, in spite of how It makes me feel. I’m not good at that. I want the world to get along, feel and look good. I like to order how the leaves fall, instead of looking at a heap that comes from pruning. Today, I am reminded that God wants me to grow fruit and not foliage in my home, in my kids, in my marriage, in my ministries. Big and lush and green may be pretty, but strong, and sturdy and fruitful is better. It’s stalky, lenky, and more bare than I like. But the fruit is bigger and more abundant. Putting peace and order before straight-up Godliness can come at the cost of the fruit that pruning produces. The peace will come not from how it all looks or feels, but as a result of being bare before God, letting the light shine in on our deeds and motives, being fruitful, if even a gawky looking,  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2
The pruning is good, if not a little ugly, and even if I don’t like how it feels. But the fruit…..

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