There’s a tree on my dining room table. It’s a lovely gift from a good friend, which I received in April and surprisingly, have kept alive since then. I was afraid for a while because leaves were falling off one branch at a very rapid pace and I was sure I had somehow killed it. Even though the idea of pruning seems counter-intuitive, I thought to save my tree by cutting off that branch that was only producing death, to divert the water and food intake toward the healthy part of the tree. I gritted my teeth and snipped it off. Then came the wait.
I eagerly watched the tree, day after day, waiting to see of anything new would grow and assure me I hadn’t killed my tree. Days turned into weeks, but nothing new seemed to be growing. It was a very scary waiting time for me. I was told these trees were hard to keep alive, but I wanted it to live so badly. It’s beautiful!
A few months after clipping the branch, the inevitable finally happened. Three days ago, I noticed a small sprout near the base of the tree. Almost overnight, it seemed to have shot up and unfurled its first leaf. Two days since, today, I noticed a second shoot coming up near it, and another leaf next to the first one. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My tree is going to live! Not only is it going to live, it’s going to flourish. It is growing!
I thought about our lives and how this tree is the perfect analogy to the inner ministry that the Holy Spirit is doing in each one of us. After Jesus gifts us back to the Father through His saving grace, we become a new creation. Our Father tenderly cultivates us so that we may grow in all the fruits of the Spirit and become more Christ-like. This includes an often painful pruning of the old, dead stuff. This pruning must be endured and surely hurts. Things that hinder our growth are removed.
Then comes the agonizing wait. We often cannot see the purpose in this pruning. We feel the pain of it, but we don’t see immediate growth and during the wait, it is tempting to believe that we have been left to wither away. It seems inevitable. But you know what is inevitable, if we trust in the wisdom of God during this process? Growth.
Having removed all the things that disable us in our walk with the Lord, He has actually redirected our attention, our energy and all that sustains us toward the parts of us that are good and capable of thriving under His delicate care. Soon, we see a small evidence pop up that assures us we are growing more and more like Christ. This small sprout will grow in its own time, often imperceptibly, until it is as big a part of us as those things the Lord redeemed from before.
Imperceptible growth. It’s what’s happening on the inside during the waiting. You can’t see it, but it’s happening just the same. Believe it. Receive it. In Jesus’ name! Not only will we grow in Him, we will flourish!