Wheras most people in my family have green thumbs, I somehow managed to get a black one. People marvel that I’ve managed to kill a Ficus plant, which is apparently quite a feat. Everything I grow dies within short order. Well meaning friends give me plants as gifts, and in order to keep them alive, I entrust Dan with their safekeeping. He faithfully waters and nurtures them. While he can keep thing growing for longer than I can, neither of us can make plants thrive and prosper.
In our first year of marriage, someone gave us a mint plant. I liked how it smelled, and I was afraid of killing it. So I didn’t touch the thing. I left it to Dan. He faithfully watered it daily, and we watched it grow into a tall vine that we draped around our window sill. When my mom, the avid gardener, saw our mint plant, she laughed. Although we were proud to have kept it alive for several months, we didn’t realize that herb plants needed to be pruned, so they would bush out and become fuller, not just taller. She set to work on our pathetic little vine and five years later, our little mint plant has taken over several containers in her garden. It’s also moved to several homes in the neighborhood and is living a new life at my grandparents’ house as well.
A few weeks ago, I won 3 basil plants at a baby shower. My mint experiences flashed before my eyes, but I was determined to try again and figure out the art of pruning. I’ve been reading a little bit about pinching back the leaves at the intersections, to encourage more growth. I was a little worried about pruning my plant back to a pathetic little form, but sure enough, once I did it, it came back, fuller and more robust than before. Our mistake with the mint plant was our fear of trimming it back. We never gave it the chance to fill out. It could only move in one direction and never reach its full potential.
I’m still reading the book of John. And in chapter 15, Jesus is talking about being the “true vine.” He tells us that God is a gardner, something that we should recall from the garden of Eden. However, he also gardens people: “He 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” (15:2). Sometimes, God’s pruning can be painful. He can discipline us or simply give us difficult challenges. If we look to the Master Gardner and look for opportunities to mature and grow in new directions, the experience doesn’t have to be as painful.
As I prune back my little basil plant, I’ll be thinking about the God who’s pruning me. Although the process can be a bit messy and doesn’t always look pretty, the end result is always worth it. I trust my sovereign gardener. But please Lord, prune gently.
(To all you gardeners, I’d love to hear your tips for caring for my basil plants. I’m determined to make them last, and I’d love to make some homemade pesto from my very own crop!)