a few weeks ago, we made our annual trip to the apple orchard. i'd been waiting so long for the cool weather, turning leaves and crisp, tart apples; it comes every year, but still it feels forever new and fresh, like i can finally take my first deep breath in months.
i heard a sermon recently about pruning and fruit. in it, there was a story about an apple tree that was overgrown and breaking under the weight of its own bitter fruit. it needs pruning, or it will eventually die, the gardener said. when he was done working, there was almost nothing left of the poor tree, nothing green. the tree has been traumatized, he said, by the severe pruning. but eventually, it will grow strong and bear fruit, big and sweet.
i watched my husband, along with his father and his brother, cut down a number of trees in our yard a while back. many were diseased and had died, one had grown awkwardly and was threatening to crush our garage. even some that were still tall and strong needed pruning; i watched with concern as they sawed off every sideways-growing limb and thinned the branches to let sunlight in. wouldn't too much pruning hurt the tree, i said? won't it leave even the largest trees in distress? the most mature trees, they said, might feel a little pain, but in the end they'll be healthier, stronger. the branches growing toward the sky are the most important parts of the tree. anything else is stealing precious nutrients and energy from the stronger branches, and threatening the tree's health. the trees need to be pruned, they said, in order for them to survive.
it got me thinking about my tendency to hurry forward, yearning for fruit but despising the necessary pruning. i don't think it's necessarily bad to long to bear good fruit, but i think better than that is an attitude that embraces the pruning and receives it with joy--a painful means to a beautiful end. i don't know if we have any say over what parts of us get pruned and what remain (although, i suspect not); but if i could choose, i'd like to see the laziness go. clip off the fear, prune away my short-sightedness. cut down and burn all the sideways-growing branches of self-centeredness and pride, to make room for branches that can bear good fruit. so the light can come in and grow a blossom into a fruit, so that fruit can ripen into something bold, sweet and nourishing. so that the harvest is plentiful and many can eat till they're full.