(Grab a cup of coffee... it's quite a read... but it just might be worth it.)
Anyone that is around me long knows of my deep connection and passion for the Hawaiian islands. Eight years ago on a visit, in an effort to bring aloha back with me, I brought home two very small thick green sticks and with great hope plunked them in two huge pots to watch them grow. For several YEARS they did absolutely nothing. Just two thick green sticks in the ground. I was faithful to water, bring the pots inside when it got cold, make sure they had sun... basically, baby them. Finally, about four years ago, (no, I'm not joking) they actually started to look like plants and these sticks began shooting out leaves and ultimately plumeria flowers.
If you've ever been to Hawaii - it's THE smell of the islands. When you get off the plane and walk through the open-air airport - it's the aroma that's in the air all the time. The only way I can describe it is like a little whiff of Heaven. It MUST be the literal fragrance of Christ, I'm convinced. (Ok - do not send me emails... just let me take my own creative liberty and enjoy this moment as I type.)
Back to the point - my precious plumerias have become part of the Banks family. They now have become so large that in order to keep them healthy, we actually sink the pots in the ground during the spring and summer right by the front door. They love the sun and I love the fragrance as I pass by. It reminds me of home - Hawaii and Heaven.
This spring, I noticed there were fewer leaves, then no leaves as they all began to fall off! My heart broke as I searched the internet for information about what was happening to my trees. Then I read it: "Black Tip Fungus". The DEATH of plumerias!! I frantically began to spray them with everything prescribed and do all I could to save these plants. As a last resort, and on the advice of a plumeria specialist (yes, there are such people), I took a very sharp knife to my precious trees and cut off each limb, systematically, making sure the blade was wiped clean at each cut. I cut off all the remaining brown leaves. I cut off the ends of every stem. I cut each branch until white sap ran from the deep scars. The black tip fungus was, in essence, gone, but so were my beautiful plumerias.
I essentially, at that point, looked at my stubby, leafless trees and said, "You've been wonderful - thank you for the joy you've brought to my life... goodbye." I thought, for sure, there was no hope. Nothing beautiful could ever come from them again. I left them in the ground, in their pots, to die.
Fast forward two weeks... I stared in amazement as fresh, green bumps began to appear where the deep seeping black scars ended on each stem. Go forward two more weeks... more amazement. Tiny, tiny leaves. Two more weeks.... lots of leaves, and as if by sheer "you aren't going to take me" kind of iron will - branches forming from each cut to enable more leaves, more branches....growth. The plumerias not only are BACK but are fuller, more vibrant, stronger even... despite the terrible wounds. Better than they ever were. Miraculously, life had returned to these plants.
What's the point to this horticultural tale? (Yes, there is one.) As I was walking by the plants a few days ago, the Lord spoke to me and said, "How many people have you written off when they were in a season of pruning... when they looked too ugly in their sin or situation. Aren't you glad I didn't write you off?" OUCH. And then the parallels and started flooding my mind: The deep wounds that had to be inflicted to the plant in order to make it bloom again.... the deep purposeful wounds of Christ's pruning tool of discipline or trial in order to make all things new. Me, leaving the plants to die just like I've been guilty of leaving friends in their struggles rather than getting in there and helping them sort through them on their way back to the cross. Then He began to remind me of times I'd been deeply wounded for "pruning" sake: when areas of my life weren't growing the way He wanted and He had to take them out, or, when I resisted in obedience and had to learn the hard way. He reminded me how those situations or seasons or years brought me to a place that was so much more beautiful than the previous place I had been and how even during those times when I felt lost, without hope, ugly, broken, and like I would never bloom again - I did.
Can you see? It's the terrible, hope threatening, severe wounds in our very lives that produce the kind of growth He's after. Does He enjoy the pruning process? I don't think so, no more than I enjoyed it... but I do believe that he knows the necessity and looks on it with love - a love that sees the fabric of our lives in a way that only He can and what needs to be weaved in. A love that looks at what we truly are and what we can be, not who we've settled for and allowed ourselves to become. A love that looks down from the cross and says - I'm willing to take these wounds, to die, and to be "written off" by the world in order that you might bloom in my abundance. I'm sure you're following along and making all the connections as well. So listen to Him as He says, "Behold, I make all things new." and believe Him for it. Oh how He loves us. Oh how he longs to show us Himself in all He's made. He's in it all - just breathe it in and if need be, wait for your cuts to heal.... it's amazing what happens when He shows up and turns "nothing beautiful will ever come from this" into "something beautiful is coming, indeed."
Tara is Greg's girl, mom to two sons of thunder, a hunger fighter, big dreamer and worship pastor at seacoast church.