I have this tree in my front yard…actually I am being kind, it is only a half a tree. As you drive down the street coming toward my house, you will see lots of branches but no trunk. The tree is literally bending over. Almost all of the growth goes towards the street and there is not much on the other side. From what my neighbors have told me when Hurricane Ike hit a couple of years ago the other half didn’t make it through the storm. When we moved into our house last May the half that was remaining was in pretty bad shape, the limbs were literally touching the ground. I made an attempt last summer to make it look better and cut it back but honestly last week I was ready to cut it down!
I was sharing this with a friend of mine who is a tree guy, and he encouraged me to give the little tree a chance. He gave me some advice about how to cut it back in order to make it grow in the other direction. I agreed for two reasons: 1. I am really cheap and didn’t want to have to buy a new tree, 2. I didn ‘t like the idea of having a little stick tree when all the neighbors have nice 10-year-old trees growing in their yards.
His advice was to cut off everything that was below six feet and hanging past the sidewalk. In doing this it should encourage the branches to grow toward the backside where there were only a few limbs. I stared at the tree in determination before marching into the garage to retrieve my two-step ladder and trimmer. As I began removing limbs I realized that many of the ones hanging down actually started much higher, back into the garage I went to retrieve the 6 foot ladder. I continued to cut until I got everything just how I wanted it and it appeared to have some shape. I was pretty proud of my accomplishment until my kids and I went across the street admire it. As I stood on the sidewalk observing it I literally started to laugh out loud. There were two branches that stuck straight up significantly higher than any other limb on the tree, we named it Alfalfa. Although it was quite humorous it was time to bring out the big daddy ladder…the twelve footer. I went into the backyard where this ladder hangs on the fence and dragged it out front. Trying to get that ladder up and in position would have provided plenty of laughs for the neighbors had they been watching! After several grunts and a few inevitable scratches I finally got the ladder into the spot where I thought I could reach up and get the two offending branches. Much to my dismay I realized that I needed longer arms!
At this point I knew that my husband would totally make fun of me when he got home so determination began to boil. I went into the garage an grabbed and extension cord (only because I couldn’t find any rope) and climbed back up the ladder. I tossed the cord over one of the branches and then got my boys to pull it down so I could reach the limb. As they were on the ground pulling as hard as they could I managed to get both limbs removed. As we traveled back across the street we all cheered at the outcome!
This entire tree cutting process resonates deep in my spirit. It is a pretty accurate description of my walk with Jesus. When I made a commitment to follow him I was pretty torn. I was trying to live my life in two different worlds and came to the realization that I had to leave half of it behind. I started out thinking I was a pretty good person, a good two-step ladder and a some clippers would have been sufficient to get all the junk out of my life. As I have grown closer in my walk with God he has had to get in there and cut much more out of my life that I ever anticipated. It most certainly has been painful and at times there have been some “branches” I have wanted to hold on to but in the end I am always better off when they are removed. Just as my tree in my yard will need to be cut from time to time to get it back on track, I too will need to be pruned. This most certainly will be a life long journey! As painful as this process will be I pray that in the end as my creator steps back and looks at me his words will be, “well done my good and faithful servant!”