Artist’s Lane: It takes pruning to flourish


By Betty Slade
PREVIEW Columnist

My Sweet Al woke up sad the other morning. He said that Whiskey had been on his mind all night. “It will be a tremendous loss when she goes. She’s the only one who understands me.”

After 60 years of marriage, she isn’t the only one who understands him. But I know who holds his attention and I’m OK with it. 

Our devotion that morning was appropriate for the day. Some things will pass from our lives,and others will be taken. It spoke about a tree flourishing by being pruned. While it may give the appearance of loss, it is necessary in order to create space for other things.

Take a tree, for example. In order for it to grow stronger, smaller branches and leaves have to be removed. This also allows it to bear fruit by localizing nutrients. An unfruitful limb can hinder the overall health of a tree. 

We had a friend from Arizona who visited us over the course of many years. She always brought sacks of lemons for us to enjoy from a tree in her backyard. She didn’t bring any lemons to us last year. The weight of all the excess branches caused the tree to split down the middle, killing the tree and all its fruit. Needless to say, it was a great loss, something that could have been avoided with a little bit of spring and fall maintenance. 

Just like a tree, we all need to have some of our dead limbs cut back every now and again. It can be painful and unwelcomed, but they will weigh us down if we are not aware. 

Look around. How many things are you holding on to that are sucking the life out of you? What have you resigned to over the years that is destroying you?

For me, it was something that created a fear in me. Something that I carried from my childhood that I thought I had dealt with long ago. The Lord, the true gardener, had to cut out some things in me that were hindering my peace. 

After much prayer and faith, that thing I didn’t even know I was holding on to was finally removed. By thinning the branches that could have toppled me, I was freed from a weight that entangled me. 

I remember thinking, why now, in my later years? Why did it take so long for that thing to be revealed and removed from me? Perhaps it wasn’t the right time until now. 

We all experience loss. But it is that from our yesterdays that help us to grow beyond where we were. Truthfully, having our limbs cut can be painful and even cause us to think of ourselves as weak. I find hope in the quote, “We never know how strong we are until it becomes our only choice.” 

So, how does it look to flourish as we age? Are we taking advantage of the years we have, removing those things that are holding us back? Maybe it is just a matter of finding the branch we can hang our hat on while letting go of others. 

I don’t have any noble sense to turn back the years as some may desire. I just want to live the fullest of the days that have been appointed to me. That can only mean one thing. Being present as we trust in God. And that is more than mere words. It is a matter of abiding in him. Drawing from him the life he gives by letting go of everything else that hinders us. 

A tree can only grow from its roots. Even then, its fruit can only grow if it is fed. 

Jesus said, “Abide in me and I will abide in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” — John 14:4.

I have long told my family that if even I can’t get out of my chair, I can still pray to be strengthened and to strengthen those around me. 

Final brushstroke: If we are not mindful, twigs can begin to grow in and around us and hide where we are weak. Unless the master gardener comes in and cuts them back, we may never know our own breaking point. Fortunately, God promises us in the book of Psalms, “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age. They shall be fresh and flourishing.” 

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