I keep thinking about the palm tree in our front yard—the one we tried to uproot earlier this year. With only a couple of green, half-inch patches peeking out of its branches, I took it for dead.
A few weeks later, with JJ’s approval and only a hand shovel at my disposal, I began to dig away at that tree with great fervor and optimism. A half hour later, however, my enthusiasm had diminished. Sweat was dripping off my face as I accepted defeat against the unmoving palm tree. It didn’t get much better when JJ and I bought a normal-sized shovel and he had his turn tearing it up, either.
As the sun began to set that evening, our yard was littered with dirt and severed roots, but the center root remained intact, firmly anchoring the storm-weathered tree to solid ground.
We considered our options and finally decided we’d leave the tree alone for a few more weeks. Perhaps there was still life to be found in the tiny plant considering the great strength it had exhibited that day. I’d give it some extra care in the weeks to follow, and if we didn’t see any growth at that time, we’d figure out how to be rid of it once and for all.
Surprisingly, the tree had grown an inch alone by the very next morning, and green was lining the bottom of its branches as they spread out and continued to grow. Today, that palm tree is the greenest plant in our front yard—still tiny, but bursting with life and growing stronger and bigger each day.
I think of this palm tree often, because our lives as a family seem to parallel its story. We’ve experienced our own personal storms; we’ve faced the elements of desert living. And the harshness of the climate these past few years has made it difficult to recognize much growth. Sometimes it has felt like we have not been fully living at all. But then I’m reminded that growth isn’t simply about branching out or living in an eternal season of spring. Perhaps growth involves severing roots that have hindered growth, at times, and anchoring ourselves more firmly to the Root that causes us to truly live. Sometimes growth requires that we go through seasons of pruning in order that we may bear more fruit in time.
When I think of our life as a family and the seeming barrenness of these past couple of years, I want to keep these perspectives in mind. Most times, it feels like our attempts to branch out have brought us back to bare roots. But then I’m reminded of John’s words about the Messiah.
He must increase, but I must decrease.”John 3:30
Perhaps all of this digging up and pruning and seemingly becoming less is part of me decreasing so that Jesus may increase in my life. If that is the case, then let it be so. And may God help me to willingly accept that rather than struggling through it as I often do. Ultimately, this season of pruning won’t last forever, so may God help me to graciously accept it with anticipation for the harvest that He is preparing as a result of all the digging up and pruning.
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”John 15:1-2