The Pruning

Jason has these self-watering containers in the backyard where he plants tomato seedlings.  The second planting season in Houston is mid-September so he cut down the old Cherokee Purple and the Sugar Lump plants that were dying away, but he saved the very tops of them that were new growth, growing out of the old.  And he replanted them in the containers.  Just to see what would happen.

Two weeks later they were vibrant with growth, especially one of them.  The one in the blue container.  I would watch it every day as the days turned more bearable and you could enjoy sitting outside again, a cool breeze occasionally interrupting the warmth.  A few days later I noticed there were already yellow flowers throughout the tomato plant.  This plant was unbelievable.  Life was overtaking it and it was thriving.  I told Jason about the flowers, but he had already seen them.

“Wait.  What are you doing?” I asked in horror.  He was pinching the flowers off one by one.  The flowers that would turn into fruit.

He smiled at me and said, “This plant’s not ready for fruit yet.  If I don’t prune it, all the energy will go towards fruit and then the growth of the plant will become stunted.  The energy needs to go to the roots.  Let it build up the plant.  Then it will be ready after a while to produce fruit.  A lot of fruit.”

My frown slowly turned upward as the truth of the farmer’s words hit me.  Pruning to be more fruitful.  Where had I heard that before?

I remember having a phone conversation with my dear friend Ruth several years ago.  I was in the kitchen on my cell phone amid dirty sippy cups and sticky countertops, stealing a bit of time away during a baby’s nap.  And I was relaying to her my earnest desire to serve the Lord in ministry.  How it seemed like all of my Bible college friends were just passing us by and doing incredible things for God.  And here I was, a Carpenter’s wife having a kid every two years.  Not that I discounted the ministry of motherhood.  I just sensed there was more that I was made for.  This calling of a life of being poured out doing something big.

“Maybe you’re not ready yet,” Ruth said to me.

I had opened my mouth, but couldn’t say anything to that.  I had sometimes feared that I had missed God’s call upon my life.  But the thought of not being ready for the call was something entirely different than missing it all together.  I thought I was ready.  Why wouldn’t I be?  I’ve been to Bible school, grew up on the mission field, loved Jesus for as long as I can remember.  Not ready yet?  But then did I really have the right to determine my own readiness?

A month later I look at that same, pruned Sugar Lump tomato plant in the blue container.  And it towers over the other plants in the Autumn garden.  And it is heavy as can be with abundant fruit.