Summer is drawing to a close. The months of bright, festive flowers that beckon and sing to the pollinators and picnickers is dwindling down. There will be a few days of heated fury and defiance, where summer rebels just a bit – blazing hot and fierce. Time is almost up, and it knows.
The garden knows, too, and begins the descent into autumn. The spring and summer flowering plants and bushes slow and droop, dropping dried blooms, except for those that flourish and delight in autumn, bringing fresh color and excitement to a waning garden.
With this changing of the guard comes a season of pruning. Much needs to be done to keep the garden looking loved, cared for and peaceful. Garden shears, trimmers and trowels are still needed.
Upon close inspection, one sees the stems, leaves, vines, and small branches shut down, wither, and die back. The perennials need this season of pruning for survival; they need someone to cut away and remove those areas that are no longer serving them or the garden. At times the pruning seems brutal, harsh, and perhaps cruel as some parts are cut away so severely there is hardly any of the original plant left. All is cut away that is not actively helping, nurturing, and stimulating growth in the plant. Those dead and dying off parts suck vital nutrients from the healthy stems, branches, and leaves. A good gardener knows that they cannot be left to compete with and deplete the healthy plant.
Bending close to check each branch and stem, the gardener determines where best to trim and cut away. At first glance, a stem or branch may look completely wasted away, yet a closer look reveals tiny, minute new growth attempting to push its way out. The gardener values this new growth, barely visible except to the one who actively seeks and delights in nourishing this fledgling sprout of new life. All that is above it will be removed and tossed away, allowing plenty of room and careful tending to encourage the new life.
Do you see how this imagery of a master gardener lovingly tending his or her garden applies so beautifully to how the Creator loving and intentionally prunes, tends, and cares for each of us?
The pruned plant may look bedraggled and worse for wear, hacked and shorn off, appearing vulnerable and fragile. But this is where the unseen work takes place in the root system below the surface. With the dead and decaying parts pruned away, the roots are free to prepare and strengthen the fragile plant for the new life waiting for rebirth when the season is just right; when spring comes and the time for its new beginning arrives. The quiet season of strength building is vital for this plant and is vital for us, too. When the Master Gardener deems it is time, new life will burst up, break forth and take its place in the Garden of Life, amid humanity, where the plant and you and I will live out our purpose, delight those meant to encounter us and be deeply nourished from a root system well established and fed by the Master Gardener and His living water.
The pruning season is hard. It hurts and can leave us feeling like there is nothing left of us but stumpy, stick-like nubs that are ugly, barren and have no purpose. But we can’t see with the eyes of the Master Gardener, who sees these shorn off places as a thing of great beauty and Divine Purpose, because He knows what’s coming. He sees the pruned places for what they are; stealers of joy, a heavy weight of bad habits, bitterness and anger, idols we erected in our search for happiness and value, and greedy competitors that robbed precious energy. I imagine Him smiling and laughing in anticipation of all that He is doing below the surface to the root system of our lives. Every nip, cut, snip and prune hold tremendous value and purpose. So, can we endure for a little while, during the quiet autumn of the pruning season, to see the joy, delight and surprise that will spring forth?