He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit (John 15:2, NRSV).
These two lemons are not a prize. They will not win anything at the Goleta Valley Annual Lemon Festival (yes, there is such a thing). So, if you question their value, I don’t blame you. Let me tell you what they are.
My husband and I got a lemon tree for a wedding present; untraditional, in that we live in a city. Luckily, this whole area was once covered in orchards. Apparently, citrus loves the sun and we loved the idea of growing something out of the dessert.
My husband, well, fell in love with our tree. He watched her and flattered her. He was so happy with any sign of growth it would almost bring him to tears. We were doing it. We were growing something together.
She sat at the front entry area for a year until we decided to give her more permanent accommodations. We moved her to the back yard and ceremonially placed her in the dirt. She paid us back with lemon blossoms, which might be the most hypnotizing scent in the world. It became our reason to leave the windows open at night.
And then, she made tiny-tiny lemon buds. My husband was delighted and I was feeling maternal. From the fall to the spring, I walk the yard in the morning. I stop in front of her, giving her encouragement to press on so that one day she can give us lemonade and shade. I think she likes it.
I have learned about pruning from my husband and this lemon tree. He comes from the green thumb line, so I concede in matters of care. I used to run and hide when he would strategically cut a lovely piece of growth for some reason to which only he was privy. I soon found that as he pruned, she responded doubly. My fears became irrational as she decided to become a tree under this tutelage.
And, I watched her. She morphed limb by limb, showing me that hope for lemonade and shade comes from her decrease. She never gives a thought to loss, only to thriving. This is where we stand in opposition.
Our lemon tree could be the mascot of the last three years of my life. Maybe it is my 35th birthday coming up, or my anniversary, or maybe I am headed for another season of pruning. I will be honest; on some days, it seems unlikely that anyone could be pruned more, in any period of time, than in my last three years.
My marriage has been one avenue that I have seen God walking down. He carries the shears, and I have walked boldly to Him to swat them out of His hand, while saying, “No more. I will not change one more thing”. In retrospect, I am so glad that I am the weaker opponent.
During this time, I have physically, emotionally and spiritually been places that I did not think I would go. My night awakenings became hours of prayer. God placed my efforts in arenas I would have arrogantly ridiculed only months before. I have found that as I become something that I do not recognize, I am more myself than I have ever been.
I do not fear this pruning season. I ask you, Father, to make me into something that blossoms and buds, something that is fragrant deep into the night. I ask that I would not struggle under your skilled hand and that I would grow only for your delight.
These lemons are the first that we could use from this tree. We have waited three years for this moment. She has made us a thimble full of lemonade now, but soon she will make us a pitcher and we will drink it under the shade of her arms. On that day, I will show you the pictures.
She is a picture of hope. Don’t you think?
Are you in a season of pruning?