You’ll want to cut the biggest branch right to the ground, my mother told me matter-of-factly.
We had just moved into our new home last spring and my parents were walking the yard, taking inventory of the mature landscape. They stopped at a large lilac bush, growing as high as the gutters next to my garage. Blooms were bountiful but up high, like every perfumed purple cluster was reaching for the sun.
While I stood giddy over a hardy shrub that had already reached maturity just outside my kitchen window, my mother the gardener saw a leggy, overgrown bush that needed pruning in order to come back healthier and fuller next year and the year after that.
Pruning requires us to look beyond our blind spots at the totality of a thing.
We have all just come out of a painful pruning season.
On a macro level, the removal of what we’ve loved has been deeply disorienting. Looking closer, the daily rhythms of putting children on a bus, working in an office, lunching with coworkers or meeting with clients, were replaced with learning in the home, office desks in bedroom corners, virtual meetings, and scrounging for lunch out of a fridge that’s been raided by children until all that’s left is a stalk of celery and a tub of hummus.
A third of our limbs have been pruned and we’re still healing.
Over the winter, my lilac served as a safe haven for songbirds. We hung feeders from its branches while its roots silently spread deeper into the ground, storing energy for spring blooms. The base of the cut limb sealed over with a callous tissue to protect itself from disease.
And then one day this spring, while my kids rode scooters in the driveway and I watered a new blueberry bush in the front yard, our lilac woke up. Out came bright, healthy leaves and tight purple buds. Within a week or so, the clusters opened and heavy perfume filled the air. The blooms aren’t at the tippy top of the bush anymore, they’re reachable. Our lilac is full and lovely.
Pruning is a rhythm. Cutting back is required for better growth.
As we begin to recommit to the things we once loved, while we weigh picking back up the things we tolerated, as we heal from the things that took so much from us, let’s consider what it would look like to be regularly pruned. For our good.
I won’t have to cut a third of my lilac again for a lot of years. But if I trim the branches back this spring, we may just get a second bloom this summer.
What life limb experienced a painful pruning in the last year?
Has the wound healed itself yet?
Where could margins be widened and new growth revealed with regular pruning in your life?
How could periodically stepping back to reassess growth be an effective strategy?
“I am the true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father. He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest.”John 15: 1-2 TPT