Fall is one of my favorite seasons. Although I am a sunshine lover and happiest in the warm weather of summer, there is always something about fall that inspires a tremendous amount of reflection. It’s a season of change, of progression toward death or dormancy, a time of pruning and preparing for winter.
We have a small rose garden in our backyard. It’s just a planter with four rose bushes in it, a gift from my husband for Mother’s Day several years ago. Each rosebush was planted in honor of one of our babies gone to heaven before we were ready, and there is a delicate plaque with each of their names and birthdays engraved on them. I love these roses. I love seeing them grow and bloom, going dormant only to bloom again.
When we first planted them, they were quite small, and they required a lot of attention. That first summer, I watered them twice a day to ensure they would live through the brutal Texas heat. Each year they have required less attention, and each year they grow exponentially. The base of the bush is now thick and hearty, and they have grown to be four feet tall. I barely need to water them anymore, as the plentiful rain seems to be enough to keep them alive. But this year I noticed they had grown a little out of control. The tops of the bushes had grown heavy and cluttered. They were weighed down and tangled in one another, choking out new growth. The dead blooms had dried but had not fallen off and were spoiling the beauty of the new buds struggling to bloom. So, I got my sheers out and began cutting off the growth. Some of what had to go was dead, some was new life just about to bloom, but for the good of the plant, it all had to go.
As I was cutting them, the Scripture from John 15:2 came to mind: Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. My faith is well established. I am not a sapling, and I sometimes convince myself that I don’t need to tend to my spiritual life daily, or that I don’t need much pruning. But Jesus goes on to say: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. As I cut the branches away, I thought about all the sin in my life that still creeps in and the daily struggle for righteousness, especially when it comes to my interactions with my kids. I know that if I truly abide in him, I will find peace and joy in this vocation and in my daily life.
Weeks later, I now marvel at the new growth that is already happening—the buds of beauty and color that are springing forth from the branches that were cut back. The Lord in his kindness prunes and cuts back, but always and only so new life can spring forward. May we allow the shears to come and do their work, and may we always abide in him.