A few years ago, a friend of ours came to our home for a visit. Having been a very successful, avid gardener for many years, I was anxious for him to come see our first garden. I wanted him to tell me what I needed to do next and how I could improve. That is until, he whipped his knife from his hip.
He bent down to his knees to examine my tomato plants, which I was very impressed with due to their abundant and overflowing leaves. They had started out as tiny little plants and now they collided into one another until you couldn’t tell one from the other. Boy, was I pleased!
My friend, however, had a look on his face that told me his excitement wasn’t quite the same as mine. He explained to me that I had a bunch of “suckers” on my tomato plants and that they needed to be trimmed back. Opening his knife, he looked up at me and asked if I trusted him.
Of course I trusted him.
He has years of experience and this is my first garden. Yes, I trust him. He loves me and wants what is best for me and my family. Of course I trust him. On the other hand, he has an open knife in his hand with the blade aimed at my precious tomato plant! I swallowed hard and gave him permission to do as he saw fit. Then I cringed each time I watched a beautiful green leaf fall to the ground. I wondered why it was so difficult to watch while at the same time knowing that I trust.
After a few minutes, my greenhouse floor was littered with vibrant, green leaves that to me appeared to be healthy and good. As he was gently trimming, he was showing my husband and me the leaves he was removing and explaining why it needed to be done.
Though they looked harmless, and even healthy, he explained to us that they were “suckers”. They were leaves that were never going to produce any fruit. Not only would they never produce fruit, but they were stealing water and nutrients that the tomatoes needed to grow to their full potential. He explained that with the “suckers”out of the way, not only would we get more tomatoes, but they would be bigger.
The ground was now covered in leaves and the tomato plants seemed bare and naked. I trusted, but I still didn’t completely understand. Why is it that we need to experience things for ourselves before we can fully comprehend what we are being taught? I was happy to see him close his knife and remove it from my sight. That trimming may have been good for my plants, but it was difficult for me.
Over the next few weeks, I obediently went to my tomato plants and trimmed the new “suckers” I saw popping up. To my amazement, (why are we so quick to doubt?), little, green tomatoes were appearing – new ones each day. Then it dawned on me that in just a few weeks, I went from cringing, to guessing at which ones were really suckers, to confidently trimming away with trust.
I pray when I am in the garden. I am alone, it’s quiet, and I am surrounded by God’s beauty and power. I can’t seem to help it. Prayer just comes naturally to me as I feel His incredible presence there. I gave Him each and every seed as it was planted. I gave Him each seedling as I watered it. I gave Him credit as each plant blossomed and bore fruit. I gave Him my garden. He is there. So, naturally, I converse with Him when I am there. He has not only given food for me and my family, but has used this garden to teach me many things about Him. One of the things He taught me was that tending to a garden is much like tending to our Christian walk.
First, He showed me that, like my trusted friend, He has gone before us and wants for us to learn from Him so that we may bear much fruit. He showed me that even though it might be scary to watch what needs to happen or difficult to trust in what is to come, we must be obedient to the One who knows the way.
The second thing He showed me is that it may be difficult at first to identify the “suckers” or the sinful, harmful things in our lives. At first glance, they appear vibrant and healthy, a sign of growth and prosperity. Upon a more experienced examination, however, we can see that they are harmful. Even once we have been taught, though, it can still be difficult to determine the harmful from the innocent. This is true of tomato leaves and it is true of our daily choices.
The realization for me was that, in my experience, I have grown enough that I can now more easily identify the “suckers”. The same is true of our Christian walk. Though we may start out wobbly and doubting, through trust and obedience, we will soon be able to confidently trim off the “suckers” in our lives. There are many things, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings that I have trimmed from my life over the past few years. I, too, was once an overgrown tomato plant, full of healthy appearing leaves that really just shadowed over the small fruit underneath.
I thank and praise my Loving Father who was willing to come in, get down on His knees, and gently trim the suckers off of me. I am so thankful to Him that He taught me to trust and obey so that I may grow and bear more fruit…for His Glory!
I will be eternally thankful that I realize that the “suckers” always grow back. I must never become complacent and think that He has done my trimming and growing and now I am done. I know that the suckers grow back. I know that the knife needs to come out from time to time. I pray that He will always bless me with more trust so that I may become more obedient that I may grow an abundant harvest for His Glory!
I never want to be among the piles of leaves, trimmed off without a thought, lying, dying, trampled on the ground. Thank you, Jesus, for trimming off the “suckers”!
Heavenly Father, teach us to trust in You, even when the discipline is unpleasant. Help us to know that You are doing a work in us that will produce a yield of blessing and abundance. Let us never lose sight of the fact that our eyes must always remain on You. Let us never become lazy or unaware of the suckers in our lives. When we do recognize them, give us the strength to trim them away. In all things, may You alone, receive the glory. In the precious name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ~Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~John 15:5 (NIV)
To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. ~Proverbs 12:1 (NLT)
How have you learned to trust God even when His discipline seems unpleasant? How have you seen the fruit He has produced in you as a result?
This post was shared at Chronicles of Grace.