I pruned my trees this past fall, and surprisingly, I actually enjoyed this activity. I love being outside and doing something physical after working on the computer all day. My kids helped, but they were less enthusiastic about it. When I told them that I was enjoying the chore they asked me why, and that got me thinking.
I began pruning the trees because they were growing too low and getting in the way of the lawn mower. But after finishing a few of the trees I began to see how much better that area of the yard was looking. Instead of a big mass of trees growing into each other, blocking out the sunlight and fighting over the limited nourishment from the ground, they now became distinguishable from each other, and the light coming through made everything look brighter and better. I think watching this transformation take place was part of the enjoyment of the chore, and then the pride of knowing that I helped make it look better added even more enjoyment.
This chore and its results reminded me of one of my favorite Bible passages that my dad had also inadvertently taught me about through his apple experiment. In John 5:2 Jesus explains that, “[God] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” You and I are like trees growing in this forest of life. If we allow ourselves to go through life and grow wildly without any care or pruning, we can kind of clump up into each other and crowd out the “light and nourishment” from each other. But if we look back on our lives and do some pruning, invite others in to help us with some tender loving care, and best of all, allow God to prune away at us, even though the process may be a bit uncomfortable, we will begin to stand apart once again. We will receive the full light and nourishment provided and intended for each of us and we won’t encumber into each others’ territory (not as much anyway, no one’s perfect).
This is what happened to me when I began healing from my abortion. I was so enmeshed and co-dependent with other people, that I couldn’t stand alone and be who God created me to be. There were no boundaries defining where my personality and beliefs began or ended. I let everyone around me determine that for me. But once I began the healing journey and seeking the help of compassionate people trained to help me, who have been where I’ve been, my pruning actually was hardly even painful. Instead it was freeing and wonderful. Yes, it was hard to bring up painful old memories. But since I had held them in for so long, just simply speaking them out loud was a release, and a couple branches came down. In fact, sharing the facts of my story was so eerily easy and unemotional, that I was confused and asked why I was so unemotional when other women were easily emotional. I was told not to worry, that at some point in the weekend, I would cry. I just needed a trigger. We worked through anger issues and wrote letters that were not meant to be sent. A few more branches came down. Some clarity began to appear, I started to feel a little wiggle room in just being myself. We talked about forgiveness, forgiving anyone involved in our abortion stories and forgiving ourselves. Even more branches came down. We named our children and gave them the dignity of acknowledging their presence here on Earth, even if only for a brief time. Lots more branches came down. We prepared and participated in a memorial service for our children. This was the trigger I needed to break the emotional damn. Thick, gnarly twisted branches came down. I was a different person by the end of the weekend. I was finally an individual again.
It would take many more years before I fully understood this transformation and how to handle myself with this newfound freedom. It took some adjustment, especially in learning to accept the reaction of other people. When you are such a quiet and withdrawn person for so long, as I was, suddenly having something to say is a surprise and takes people aback. I felt like one of the characters in the Narnia movie where the White Witch had caused her subjects to freeze and become statues to look upon for her enjoyment. It was like I had been frozen but now the curse had been broken, and at first only my eyeballs could move. Imagine your reaction if you saw a statue every day for many years and one day that statue’s eyes began to move. You might jump or shout. Although people were not physically jumping or shouting, I could sense a reaction in their countenance similar to such a physical reaction. I began to anticipate and enjoy these reactions as my courage and personality grew and came into its own from the light and nourishment I was now able to receive.
Your pruning process and the results from it may look different from mine, whether your “overgrowth” is abortion-related or not. Prayer for God’s timing and His perfect pruning touch will no doubt be worth it.