We paddled down the lake and stopped for a few moments to visit with friends. Behind us the sun slipped lower. “We must go,” I said, “it’s almost time.”
Last week, thorns jabbed through my work gloves as we pruned the roses. It seemed as if the plants were fighting back. With each scatch I received, I heard the roses cry, “This may be good for me, but it hurts. I know I’ll be healthier, stronger, more beautiful but the pain is unbearable. Leave me alone.”
We human beings also require pruning. In order to keep us strong and healthy, God sometimes uses the shears of logical consequences, the knives of reality to clear away our dead wood ideas based on false beliefs, old hurts, failures, anger. Like the roses, we reach out with our thorns and yell at God, “Leave us alone. This isn’t fair.” It’s only later, when the deadwood is gone that we realize the good God has brought forth in us. With room to breathe and to lift our branches to the “son”, we have new life.
Not every hurt we endure begins as part of God’s pruning, but out of every hurt God can bring us new life. That’s a difficult concept to understand. In our pain, it makes no sense. Yet, our faith asks us to trust God, to believe that God the master gardener will work to bring beauty even out of the darkness.
St. Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus… For I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4: 6-7, 12-13)
My friend Ellen, age one hundred, lives this trust. She says, “This is where I am in life. I will accept it and live the best I can.” Like St. Paul, in this trust, she finds God’s peace and strength for learning and living well.