It looked sad. Bare. Lonely. Exposed. Vulnerable. Near death. Like a phantom.
On my daily walk I noticed the neighbor’s bush had been seriously cut back. It was springtime and it had been pruned. It looked more like a collection of sticks than a living plant.
Would it survive after a hack job like that? It didn’t look like it to my untrained eye. Was the homeowner trying to kill his/her bush? Not intentionally.
Could he/she have made a mistake? Was it pruned too much? Possibly.
I know how I felt pruned too severely when I returned to the world from the convent. I could only moan, “Why Lord?”
I would meditate on John 15 (the vine and the branches) and wonder if I was the pruned vine or the rejected junk thrown into the fire. It felt as though I could be either and that was not comforting.
I continued to walk past this bush and I noticed its steady growth and recovery. Eventually it started sprouting buds so I took a picture. I wanted to be reminded of this rebirth, of this growth after looking utterly hopeless and forlorn.
By the end of the summer, the bush was massive and it was hard to believe it was chopped to nothing roughly six months ago. This change was gradual and happened over a long period of time. But it did occur, even though the changes day to day were imperceptible.
It is the same for me. I do not feel much different today compared to yesterday. Sometimes I even feel worse. Two steps forward, and one step back, etc. I am confident I do not look outwardly different today compared to yesterday, just like the bush. But that time period is too small.
God has given me glimpses of my growth and recovery from that extensive pruning when I look at larger chunks of time. Often I don’t recognize it but the reality is that I am trending upward. When I reach certain milestones they help me take a moment and do a direct comparison.
How about you? Do you try and stay focused on the bigger picture? How do you do that? How do you encourage yourself and others day to day?