Years ago I was the proud owner of a beautiful potted tropical plant given to me by friends. It had been with me for many years and through several moves. Then one day I dropped an armload of books on it! Devastated, I gently stood the bent stems upright and hoped for the best.
However as the days went by the plant began to droop. The large leaves began to yellow and curl. I knew my plant was in trouble but just couldn’t bring myself to give up on it. I could see it as it used to be, flourishing and strong, and couldn’t bear to think it would no longer look that way.
Finally it was apparent it wasn’t the same plant at all anymore. It was dry and brownish and ugly. Sadly, preparing to throw it away, I began to cut back the damaged leaves – and was stunned to discover underneath several new leaf sprouts I couldn’t see before! Fresh new growth was filling the pot! Several weeks later I once more had a thriving, luxuriant plant with glossy green leaves.
While I had been mourning the loss of my plant’s former beauty and doubting it could regain its past glory, I was totally unaware of what was happening below. Those new leaves wouldn’t have been able to grow in the shade of the old ones. What resulted was a healthier and even more vigorous plant.
I often think of the lessons in that experience. I don’t want to be an “old leaf” restricting the growth or blossoming of others. Sometimes it takes just stepping out of the way.
I also find this memory to be a source of hope. While feeling despondent about our church’s financial situation, I was reminded that sometimes cutting back is part of the natural order. It may not be planned or foreseen or desired. It is almost always painful.
The same is true when our personal circumstances change drastically. We feel the sharp stinging slash of the shears as our former self is hacked away or reshaped and we mourn the loss of what we had or who we thought we were.
Yet the divine life force that sustains us will not be denied! As we are stripped down to our essential essence, the very core of our value and purpose, what we find may be even better. New possibilities arise when we let go of what was.
Right now tender shoots rooted in the rich soil of the past are reaching upward toward the light, longing to unfurl. Perhaps such growth is possible only through what landscapers call “hard pruning”. The new buds may catch us by surprise, but with faith’s tender care and watering, lustrous stems and leaves will emerge — and we will be reborn, not as we once were, but hopefully as we more truly are meant to be.