In my back yard I have a tree. It’s a Ficus Benjamina, commonly known as the weeping fig or Benjamin’s Fig.

It has gracefully drooping branchlets and glossy leaves, and grows really fast and has really big roots and provides lots of shade. But it is not a safe tree. The United States Forest Service states about Ficus Benjamina, “Roots grow rapidly invading gardens, growing under and lifting sidewalks, patios, and driveways.”

A plumber once told me about a Ficus the knew that had gotten quite rowdy. It’s owners left their home for a few months, and when they came back, the tree had found it’s way into the drainage system and had sent up root into the toilet!

Yikes! What do you do with crazy, wild, destructive fig tree like that?

Well you could cut it down, but then you wouldn’t have that beautiful, glossy, green shade. To keep and manage my Ficus, I dug down in the ground and sawed through the roots that were headed for my house. And then I paid  a tree trimmer to have the top trimmed so that it wouldn’t get too big. I’m not sure this is good for my neighbors. My Ficus is now sending out roots in other directions. I noticed the other day that now my neighbor’s house seems to be tilting.

We humans are like Ficus. We get on with life, we get our acts together, we flourish, kind of, and yet no matter how much we sprout branches of forgiveness, redemption or respectability, our roots are often still wild, unruly, even  destructive. We all, at times, send out  damaging roots that get into sewer lines. Thirsty ever, we all, at times, sip from polluted sources.

Jesus talked about this kind of thing at length, teaching his followers that God pays attention to humanity’s arboreal diseases, and that as a result, God as earth’s gardener, is in the pruning business. Jesus explained this clearly saying, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful …” John 15:1-2.

Fascinating! God hacks away at us —  to make us better! God  has in mind that we flourish, bloom, fruit. God has in mind that we be even more productive than we have in mind for ourselves. God, the grand gardener, wants to make us healthier, more beautiful and more useful than we ever imagined.

How? How does God prune? What tool does he use to cut? Through what means does he trim?

It seems to me that God prunes us, that he cuts the bad out of us, that he whacks off worthless branches, using other people.  People are his pruning shears. And I think that anyone can be used for this!

My doctor recently told me to stop drinking coffee and soda. I did. I feel better, and the symptoms I complained to him about, they are now gone. As a result, I am more productive. Doctors? Pruners!

My staff, over the last few years, have reminded and taught me to trust them, to work through them, to listen to their ideas, to not do it all myself. Good. Pruning! I am a better team player because of them.

My wife recently asked everyone in our family to take one hour on Saturday morning to help clean the house. She was tired of doing it alone. It is working! We are a better team because of it, a better family. Spouses? Pruners!

If we are open to truth, from other people, then we allow them to be God’s instruments to prune us!

To be beautiful, to flourish, we must come near to other people, serve alongside them, listen to their advice, come face-to-face with the issues we create, let our rowdy roots be trimmed back, let other people speak into our lives

This makes perfect sense. We need other people, to improve, excel, sprout, fruit!

Branches, you can’t thrive alone, you can’t prune yourselves, you can’t act as branch and lopper at the same time. You can’t see all your own faults; you don’t experience yourself as others do, and in truth, you can’t mature, bloom and fig alone.

Isolationism, hiding, aloneness, defensiveness, self-protectionism, egotism, arrogance — those don’t lead to bearing fruit. Of course we all hide, at times, and lick our cuts, and this can be healing, and we can at times self-correct and self-affirm, but eventually we get well, healthy and mature with the other branches, connected to the vine, not alone, but in community.

What to do?

Take advice. Invite advice. Go hunting for advice, for what other people think about you, what God thinks about you, your issues, the solutions. If you have a problem, if you are creating problems, if you are a problem, go looking for someone to trim you back. Go so far as to invite input, to invite feedback, to invite correction, to even invite a conflict if needed, so that you can invite a solution, a negotiation, a reconciliation. Do this, without delay, so that you can invite health back into yourself.

Pruning shears?  Loppers? Trimmers? Saws? Cutters?

You likely find them everywhere, living in your own home, working in your office, or studying with you at school. And they’ll likely be more than happy to chop away at you, gently I think, if politely invited.

And if you can take the prunning, and you can, you’ll be better for it.

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