Several years ago we moved out to the country on a couple of acres. Realizing the deer population was too great to combat, I’ve moved from flower gardens to forestry. The lot we bought has a lot of structure(highs and lows) and several ideal and less ideal trees. We have numerous Oaks, Maples and Ironwood. Many of them are very old. Certainly old enough to demonstrate that the fire of 1918 didn’t happen to get to this patch of forest even though points all around us were burned to the ground.
There is a large population of less ideal trees, Popple and Basswood. Many of these great Oaks and Maples have been overrun by these lesser trees stealing light, stealing water, stealing space for roots and canopies. The only way to move forward is to create a void by moving backward. Which leads to a great question in many parts of life, “how far back do I have to go, before I get to move forward?” Each year I come up with a plan for taking down trees that are inhibiting the growth of the ideal. You know the good as enemy of the best. There is nothing wrong with a popple, but it is only good, not the best.
As I have cut down trees shading out the better ones, I notice it takes about two years to really see the fruit of that effort. The first summer those smaller trees bask in the sun, but they are only used to growing so much and that’s where they get stuck. But all of the photosynthesis from this new light is pumping energy into the savings account called a root system. That second summer the new growth goes from 6 inches per year previously to two or three feet. The void that was caused by the cutdown (going backward), is now moving forward with something spectacular, maple syrup and fall color.
Aesthetically we get to see more than just a mass of green. We get to see large powerful trunks rise form the forest floor, open space, and a canopy towering over our heads to feel small in the presence of earthly greatness. We enjoy the shade on a warm summer day and a breeze that can now flow through the new open space created, no longer a stifling stagnance.
These horticultural themes always bring me back to John 15, the vine and the branches. Pruning so that something can be fruitful. Like a forest, a grapevine can become so overrun with branches, it fails at it’s true purpose, produce fruit. Moving backward is a kindness to allow movement forward.
We find ourselves in a moment of pruning, a forced cutback and an opportunity to think about which Popple trees in our life are shading out the fruit of the Spirit, keeping us from being all that God intended for us. Hop out of the shade and into the light, allow yourself to be fed by God, grow larger roots and pray for the God of the harvest to flow through you and bring life and light to our world.
There are 5-8 parables in there, I’ll let the Holy Spirit prompt you to consider one or all.