There's a rose bush growing outside my apartment. A tangle of skinny little branches that grows wild and free in the midst of several shrubs. I can only assume that the last tenant planted it there sometime before I moved in. I walked past that bush twice a day for close to two years before I finally noticed it. There were no bright pink or red blooms to draw my attention, so it just blended in to its surroundings. Once I finally noticed the wayward plant, I couldn't un-notice it. For the past year, pretty much every time I've walked past it, I've said to myself "You know, I really need to get my Daddy to come help me yank that thing out of the ground." I honestly don't think there's ever been a bloom on that rose bush in the three years I've lived in this apartment. No blooms - just prickly stems and branches growing unhindered. It's so tall now that several of the branches have bent under the pressure of their own weight - a miniature, thorny weeping willow. This bush is growing like mad, but it's producing no fruit.
I don't know much about gardening, but one thing I do know is that most plants require some sort of pruning in order to produce good, new growth. Pruning isn't just about cutting off weak or dead places. Pruning is also about cutting back places that are thriving but need to be subdued.
Cutting back growing, living places can help grow a stronger, more resilient plant so it can live up to its original purpose. That rose bush outside my front door? It's never going to produce the beautiful, sweet flowers it was intended to create if those wild offshoots continue to grow unchecked. It needs to be trimmed, pruned. The act of pruning allows for prosperous growth as intended by the Creator.
It's a beautiful thought, isn't it? Cutting back these places allows for the intended growth of the creation to take place, for it to be shaped the way it was intended from the time it was planted.
The uncomfortable part is knowing that pruning is not an enjoyable process. Pruning is painful. Cutting off what's living and breathing and thriving and growing is one of the most intensely painful things you can ever go through.
This is the hard place I've been in for the past several days.
I opened my eyes a few days ago and looked around - completely startled to find myself in a situation that looked all-too familiar. A situation I swore I'd never let myself walk through again. A situation where I thought I was in complete control. A situation that I realized all too late was growing wild and unbidden - just like the rose bush outside my front door. I knew I had to get these thorny places under control soon if I didn't want them to completely overtake the good in my life.
I reached out to several friends and mentors. One of the women I consider a spiritual mother was wise enough to gently remind me that it is completely ok and very necessary to be honest with God and honest with myself about what I was thinking and feeling.
I did just that - I talked through some things with some of my girl friends and I prayed... a lot. After a good while, I finally felt like I had a grip on what was rolling around in my heart and mind. I knew exactly what I was going to do. I knew how I was going to get rid of the wild mass of thorny branches in my life. I had a plan. I was in control. I was resolute. I had it handled.
But I didn't. I was cleaning my apartment and listening to music when Sarah McMillan's King of My Heart shuffled through. (If you don't know this song, you really should do yourself a favor and listen to it here!)
All of the sudden, I was sobbing. I don't just mean crying. I mean sobbing. Like loud, ugly, shaking, doubled-over-at-the-waist sobbing. I told a friend that there was nothing to compare it to but wildly uncontrollable grieving.
As much as it completely rips me apart to admit, there were several places in my life where I had not given Him full reign and trusted Him to be King. Places where I didn't see Him moving and working, so I assumed He wasn't. Places where I refused to acknowledge His sovereignty. Places where I doubted His goodness.
When I realized this, it broke me.
I finally recognized those places for exactly what they were - places where the night was holding on to me. But the one thing I hadn't realized? God was right there holding on in those very same places. If I believe Him to be who He says He is, I have to believe that He's the King over every aspect of my life - even the wild, thorny places growing unbridled. I have to let Him have authority over every part of my life. Not just because of His title. Because He's good and He can be trusted.
I realized that just like I want my daddy to come help me yank that thorny, tangled mess of a rose bush out of the ground at my apartment, I needed the help of my Father to prune back the wild places in my life that were growing out of control, the places that were threatening to stifle my growth if not subdued.
I want to live up to my Creator's purpose for me. I want to grow strong and resilient, but I'll never be able to if I don't allow for a little pruning of the wild places in my life.
Those places over which I wasn't trusting God to be a good King? Those are the very places that are growing wild and unfettered in my life. The places that are threatening to bend over and drag me down against the dirt. The places that are blending into the background and the noise of this life and not producing the fruit they were intended to produce.
Those places are now being pruned by the best Gardener I know. It's a process - most likely a long one. It's hurting like crazy, and I'm grieving. But sometimes you need to allow yourself to grieve over things you didn't know you needed to grieve over at times you didn't expect to grieve. It's in those places of grieving that you find healing.
The grieving, the hurting? It's worth it. Unexpected grieving births unexpected hope. The places in my life that are being pruned will bring forth new life. As long as I trust Him to prune me where He sees fit and however He deems necessary, new growth will take over, shaping me as the Creator intends me to be shaped. I trust Him as King over all these places because He's good and because He can be trusted. He can grow me and shape me however He sees fit. After all, He created me. He planted me right where I am and He desires me to produce good, beautiful fruit.