Once upon a time, I had a house in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.) with some acreage in front, and a half mile driveway. The house was just a little ways uphill from a river, a lovely… mountain… river. You know the kind, made of melted glacier water that never rises much above 2 degrees above freezing? (My daughter “taught our dog to swim” there. How? By standing on the bank and throwing her in… repeatedly. Daughter claims dog loved it. Dog never said a thing about it… Daughter only told me years later. But anyway…)
So… every winter, I had “Elk”. (Sounds like some sort of rash, put that way, dunnit?) This is to say that a herd of about 60 elk would meander up and down the river, across my patch, every three days or so all winter long. That sounds lovely, until you are trying to drive your car up your driveway at 10 p.m. after a 16-or-so-hour workday, and you have to stop, flash your lights, honk your horn, and try to motivate sleepy, settled in, supine elk off the gravel onto the verge… hoping the bulls surrounding the cows surrounding the calves don’t label you a “threat” and charge your car and tyres with their antlers… their nasty, pointy, antlers.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
So… OK, Little Monk, does this have anything AT ALL to do with anything we normally talk about?
Sorry, going on…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Well, one spring, my family planted a series of rose bushes along the driveway verge up where the house and drive roundabout led onto the gravel stretch to the road. Little bushes (18 to 24 inches high)… we read the instructions… we dug holes 24 or so inches deep. We had the potting soil, the root-nutrient-stuff, the rose-nutrient-stuff, the water hose… We had EVERYTHING to plant whizz bang rose bushes, in order to yield a bumper crop of whizz bang roses.
And we had FRIENDS. My daughter had invited some of her school chums to come over that day to “dig holes” and roast weiners in the back yard, play music I didn’t get, and generally enjoy the day, the yard (garden), the river, and the expert-swimming dog. It was a fun day. And there was a funny moment in it…
One of her friends had been permitted, after much begging, to dig the hole for the last rose bush at the end of the line. (And she really DID beg, I’m not kidding.) We looked up to check on her progress, and gasped to find her waist deep in a pit she had obviously mistaken for the beginnings of either a gold mine or a Journey to the Center of the Earth. In the short time she had been left unattended, my daughter’s friend had dug this “rose bush hole” deeper than 3 feet and easily 24 inches around. We stopped her, lifted her out of her pit, and asked (laughingly) what she was doing?
She responded that she just loved to dig holes, that she’d begged because she wasn’t allowed to dig holes at her own home, and that she wasn’t allowed because her parents didn’t like the holes she dug since they were too big and too deep. (Ah! The tale emerges…)
So… we thanked her for all her efforts, told her we were just digging the hole to loosen the soil for the rose’s roots, we weren’t planning to bury it… and now we needed to fill most of it back up. Anyway, all the bushes got planted, but I worried that this one on the end… the one with the hole twice as deep as it should have been… would be at some disadvantage compared to the others… the “properly done” others. But, time would tell…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Well, time DID tell, as that end bush went absolute hog wild. It grew 2 or 3 times faster than any other bush. It yielded easily 3 times as many roses. The rose border were “creeping” variety, that I intended to support into a living rose “fence”, and this bush was simply astonishing in its growth and beauty. Wonderful!
Now, come winter, rose bushes are supposed to be “pruned”. Purists will tell you to cut them back to the main stalk and stem… remove all the little dependent tributaries and leave just the central stalk.
Well, that always seemed “cruel” to me, so I wouldn’t do it. I would nip off the small, weak twiglets… but I left a rather “bushlike” semblance of the plant to stand through the winter. Each spring I got a very adequate growth of roses, though my “wildly ambitious” bush at the front managed to settle down across the years to a more reasonable yield.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
But then, came the elk…
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
One year, we had a very hard winter. Lots of snow, lots of ice, lots of frozen… not much greenery. Fall had ended early, spring began late, and wildlife had to hustle to make it through. That winter we saw more cougar tracks across the yard than usual, and we kept the dog in more than we normally did. The elk were with us more frequently than usual that winter… like every other day, rather than every 3 days.
And then it happened! (*insert dramatic organ chord here*)…
I drove in one evening, and my headlights flashed through the place my special rosebush should have been… and it WASN’T THERE! I stopped the car, right there in the cold, and the snow, and the elk… and everything! I was angry! My BUSH was GONE!
I had grabbed my flashlight (you always carry a flashlight, in fact a spotlight, in your car when you have to navigate elk herds on a regular basis in the nighttime) (betcha didn’t know that, didja? See what tidbits you can pick up here?) Anyway, I could see masses of hoofprints all over the snow here, and they led up along to the rose bushes… closer to the house than the elk had ever come before… and they had EATEN my ROSES! All that remained were some pitiful little gnawed, splintered, stubs… poking up out of the snow!
I was FURIOUS! My ROSES! Those mangy, hairy, overgrown antlered beasts had assaulted my ROSES! (It had been a long day, folks.) Anyway, I went on inside, cursing elk from now til kingdom come, and grieving my ex-rosebushes. Winter eventually gave way to spring.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
That spring, planning and budgeting to replace these rose-corpses, rather than expand the line of border, the most astonishing thing happened…
They resurrected. That is to say, they grew. But they not only grew, they GREW! They Exploded! The gnawed, splintered little stubs burst forth with new growth the like of which I had never imagined! As if struck by some alien life-ray, they burst forth sooner, stronger, more fruitful, more beautiful, than they had ever been or I had ever dreamed possible…
Over time, I realized… “pruning”. The Elk had “pruned” the rose bushes. They had done what I, in my misplaced compassion and personal judgment, could not. They severely cut back all the dead and unnecessary wastage on these plants, leaving them only with their vibrant central heart… and when the time and conditions were right… life burst forth in beautiful expression.
I forgave the Elk. I thanked the Elk.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Today, Paulfg posted “Your relationship with me,” and discusses “pruning” as he looked at John 15:1-8.
‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. John 15:1-8
It made me think of my elk and my roses.
And “become my disciples” made me think of…
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13:34-35]
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
My rose bushes flourished because they were “pruned”. They “gave themselves away” to “feed the elk”. I’m not saying the roses MEANT to do that… but it’s just what happened. The elk ATE, CONSUMED the rose creatures, and so the rose creatures flourished.
Jesus says we are to “love” without recompense. We are to love as HE loves, without regard for whether He, or we, get love back in return. We are to give ourselves away. Unless we eat His body and drink His blood… We are to offer our bodies a living and holy sacrifice…
Here’s a great, and yet tremendously joyful, mystery, Gentle Reader.
We bear the more fruit, the more richly we are given away. The Father becomes the more Radiant as we bear the more fruit, as we benefit from the explosion of Life within us, Him within us… as we give ourselves away and become the more disciple, We show ourselves to be disciples, we are recognized (by others) to be disciples, by the quantity and quality of our love, as we love others.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Bah! Sometimes words so seem to get in my way… But it’s all “connections”, it’s all “relationship”, it’s all “Love”.
The more of Him we “give away” to others (the more light we “refract”)… the stronger our connection with Him becomes. The more secure and solid it becomes. Because the “mystery” part is that, like electricity, the “power” can only exist “in motion”, not in a static state.
Even elk and bushes, on some creation-fundamental level, realize this.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
God doesn’t “prune” because He’s “mean”, or because “it will hurt”, or even to cut away the useless and dead. God “prunes” only when He MUST, to stimulate growth. When we willingly “give ourselves away”… when we love freely… when we embrace one another… when we “do the works of the Father” and work His will… just loving and encouraging one another without malice, selfishness, judgment, arrogance… then we lose ourselves and our egos in Him and in one another, and there’s little left for Him to cut away.
It’s just all so wondrous! He is ever about revealing Himself in what I suspect is His Favorite Name… Even elk and bushes get it… Our Father, the Giver of Life through Love! His favorite thing…