It’s August, and we’ve finally gotten a little rain. My lack of gardening prowess is showing of late. Part of it is not my fault—the flowers look considerably scorched because I’ve reserved most of the watering for the edibles.
Unfortunately, even the tomatoes and cukes are having a tough time, which IS my fault.
Composting, planting, weeding—I’ve definitely increased my skill set over the years. Pruning, however…not so much:
Problematic on a few different levels, right?
To begin with, there is too much plant and not enough fruit—when it comes to foliage, more is not always better.
Then there’s the overcrowding—too many plants for a limited amount of sustenance competing for nutrition and hydration. Overcrowding also contributes to fungal diseases like early blight due to lack of air movement keeping the leaves as a nice moist environment for the mold.
Of course, in the Christian worldview, we hear about God’s “pruning” in our lives, sometimes in the form of discipline, sometimes in the removal of what seems to be fruitful but, (in the final analysis), is actually causing a lack of productivity.
Concerning such, I find Nehemiah and his associates’ comments instructive:
Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, “Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.” For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.
And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”
And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.
The people had been “pruned” in definitive ways, and now God’s Law was being read to them, for many probably the first time. Notice there is no record of “hey-it-wasn’t-my-fault” because they hadn’t even been born yet at the time of the exile. No, the people wept in the wholesome remorse of true repentance, accepting both personal and corporate responsibility.
But here I see another side to repentance—joy. Not something I tend to think of during the pruning process. The people were still dealing the consequences of past error, but God had not abandoned them. He had pruned them for greater productivity. Hearing God’s word and understanding it, even when it means personal culpability, is to bring great joy. (Yet another divine paradox.)
Why joy? Because He VALUED them (and us). He LOVED them (and us). His purpose for them (and us) had not changed. Thus, the time of repentance allows space for joy, the Lord’s joy birthed from a sure hope of His everlasting love.
In the meantime, I’ll be glad my plants can’t start throwing their tomatoes at me as I cut off branches.
Nehemiah 8:9-11 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.