Pruning and Plumerias...
Anyone that is around me long knows of my deep connection and love for the Hawaiian islands. Our extended family has had the unique opportunity to live on the islands on and off for a number of years. On one of those visits to see family, in an effort to bring Aloha back with me, I decided I wanted to bring home plumeria trees to grow in my yard. (Plumerias are as Hawaiian as Magnolias are to the South). I brought home two very small thick green plumeria sticks and with great hope plunked them in two huge pots to watch them grow. For several years they did absolutely nothing. Just two thick green sticks in the ground. I was faithful to water, bring the pots inside when it got cold, make sure they had sun... basically, baby them. Finally, about four years later, (no, I'm not joking) they actually started to look like plants and these sticks began shooting out leaves and ultimately, plumeria flowers.
My precious plumerias have become part of the Banks family. For many years we (read: my amazingly patient husband) even went so far as to sink the pots in the ground during the spring right by the front door and pull those same pots out and put them into the garage when the weather became 'un-Hawaiian'. They are so large now, it's not possible to move them, but I still protect them fiercely when the temperatures drop. They love the sun and I love when they are in bloom and enjoy the fragrance when I pass by.
One spring a few years ago, I noticed there were fewer and fewer leaves as they all began to fall off. My heart broke as I searched the internet for information about what was happening to my trees. Then I read it: "black tip fungus". The death of plumerias! I frantically began to spray them with everything prescribed and do all I could to save these precious plants. As a last resort, and on the advice of a plumeria specialist (yes, there are such people), I took a very sharp knife to my precious trees and did what was necessary. I cut off each limb, systematically. I cut off all the remaining brown leaves. I cut off the ends of every stem. I cut each branch until white sap ran from the deep scars. The black tip fungus was, in essence, gone, but so were my beautiful plumerias.
I looked at my stubby, leafless trees and essentially said, "You've been wonderful - thank you for the joy you've brought to my life... goodbye." I thought, for sure, there was no hope. Nothing beautiful could ever come from them again. I left them in the ground, with little hope, in their pots to die.
Fast forward two weeks... I stared in amazement as fresh, green life-bumps began to appear where the deep black scars ended on each stem. Forward two more weeks... amazed again. Tiny, tiny leaves began to form and in two more weeks.... lots of leaves, and as if by sheer "you aren't going to take me" kind of iron will, branches started forming from each cut to enable more leaves, more branches. Against all odds - stunning growth! The plumerias not only were back but were fuller, more vibrant, stronger even... despite the terrible wounds. Better than they ever were. Miraculously, life had returned to these plants.
What's the point of this horticultural tale? (yes, there is one, and this won't be the last time you hear about these trees here at Waiting on Wonders).
As I was walking by the plants soon after, the Lord, in tough love spoke to me and said, "In the same way you essentially wrote off these trees in their most vulnerable state, how many people have you written off when they were in a season of pruning... when they looked too ugly in their sin or situation? Aren't you glad I loved you too much to write you off when you looked the same?" (- ouch -)
And so the pause began.
All the parallels started flooding my mind: the deep wounds that had to be inflicted to the trees to make them bloom again - and - the deep purposeful wounds of Christ's pruning tool of discipline or trial needed to make all things new. Me, leaving the plants to die and losing all hope - and - being guilty of leaving friends in their struggles rather than getting in there and helping them sort through them on their way back to the cross.
It was in this pause He also began to remind me of times I'd been deeply wounded for "pruning" sake; when areas of my life weren't growing the way He wanted and He had to take.them.out, or times when I resisted in obedience and had to learn the hard way. He reminded me how even though those situations or seasons or years were incredibly difficult, they brought me to a place that was so much more beautiful than the previous place I had been. And during those times when I felt lost, without hope, ugly, broken, and like I would never bloom again - I did.
Can you relate?
Sometimes it's the very terrible, hope-threatening, severe wounds in our lives that can produce the kind of stunning growth He's after.
Does He enjoy the pruning process? I don't think so, no more than I enjoyed taking that knife to my beloved trees ... but I do believe that He knows the necessity of it and looks on it with love. He has a love that sees the growth of our lives in a way that only He can and what needs to be pruned for our good and His glory. A love that looks at who we truly are and who we can be, not who we've settled for and allowed ourselves to become. A love that looks down from the cross and says - I'm willing to take these wounds, to die, and to be "written off" by the world so that you might bloom in my abundance.
That pause was very convicting for me that day and also started something deep in me that would ultimately become this blog and book. It was this: He's always speaking. He can use anything to get our attention as long as we are willing to slow down long enough to listen.
If you're in a season of pruning or just coming through one or feeling written off or your life doesn't feel like it's in bloom, just know, I've been there too and will be again. You are welcome here, pruning scars and all. Patiently wait for your cuts to heal. Fellow "Wait-er", it's amazing what happens when He shows up and turns "nothing beautiful will ever come from this" into "something beautiful is coming, indeed."
"Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” " - Revelation 21:5
(If you enjoyed this, please drop a comment below and let me know your thoughts! If you think someone might also enjoy it, please feel free to share it and encourage them to subscribe. The way, together, we're going to get this book published is by sharing, commenting, liking and joining in the conversation around pausing in small moments and allowing God to speak in them. So grateful you are here. Thank you so much!) - TB