25 April 2009

What I Learned from an Herb

Last Sunday I learned a lot about life from an herb.

A man named Berry Johnston's wife was laid off. He took a huge cutback in his salary. In this time of severe economic crisis, this is the up there with the worst possible of news to receive. One afternoon, as he was trying to sort out how he was going to make ends meet, Berry noticed how weak his basil plant looked. As he began to investigate how to revive the herb he realized that his life needed exactly what the herb did: a good pruning season.

Have you ever thought about pruning? Wikipedia says this about pruning: it is the removal of diseased, non-productive, or otherwise unwanted portions from a plant. Pruning involves cutting, and knives, and clippers, and snipping. It's a pretty nasty process. But, through all of this, it is an experience of pain, not death. In ridding the plant of the dead parts, pruning allows the plant to grow back even more fruitful and to flourish.

Remember when your parents said, "I love you, but I'm going to spank you?" Remember lashing back with "well if you love me so much, why are you going to cause me pain?" In retrospect this all makes a lot more sense to us. Pruning causes a plant pain, yes, but it is testing the plant in a way. When our parents punished us, they were testing us to see if we'd learn our lesson. From the pain we'd get angry, sad, numb - we'd grieve.

The release of sap is a plant's equivalent to our grieving process. A plant will release sap for the necessary amount of time that will allow the plant to recover, heal and redirect its energy. Where energy once flowed to a dead limb, it can no longer flow - because that limb has been removed; it was pruned. Now, that same energy is flowing to a living limb, and it is beginning to flourish! What brilliant design plants have!

"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. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." -John 15:1-2, 5

Here is a visual representation of my life as a plant:

early innocence and health as a child

over the years I continue to grow (adolescence),
but parts of my life decay; pruning becomes necessary

with only lively limbs to put energy into,
I am on my way to becoming a flourishing plant

Here's another fascinating thing about plants: in every inner-working of their existence, they put forth every effort possible to reach up and towards the sun, their source of life. Now I know, after hearing Berry's story, that I am not alone when I think about how wondrous nature is. I'm not the only person who thinks nature was designed in a very specific way. There's so much we can learn from our earth!


(Thanks to Pastor David Loveless and Berry Johnston who inspired this blog entry. What an amazing comparison they drew, basil:human.)

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