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For various reasons, the past months have been a bit rocky for my family. While life is good, and I’m grateful that these recent bumps weren’t anything of grave consequence, it’s just felt a bit heavy.
I told some friends of mine that I felt like I’ve been in a valley. I described it as a sort of eternal winter, wherein life felt cold and skies were stuck on a gray hue. It was like I was wading through molasses while others glided past me effortlessly, laughing and enjoying an easy life.
I hope you don’t misunderstand me. I am very blessed, and I know that God is always good, but heaviness lingered, and I just wanted to shake the doldrums.
One evening, I encountered a passage in “God Calling,” my favorite devotional book. Although I’ve read the passage many times, the words resonated with me that night.
It said, “Think of my trees—stripped of their beauty, pruned, cut, disfigured, bare … but through the dark, seemingly-dead branches flows silently, secretly, the spirit-life sap … with the sun of Spring comes new life, leaves, buds, blossoms, fruit. … But, Oh! Fruit a thousand times better for the pruning.”
The next two sentences of the passage have stayed with me. They have become a sort of mantra I silently repeat to myself in times of trouble.
Following are those sentences: “Remember that you are in the hands of the Master Gardener. He makes no mistakes about His pruning.”
My heart felt lighter when I paused to remember that I am in God’s hands, the hands of the “Master Gardener,” the cultivator of all creation. Although life felt trying and completely out of my control, it gave me a sense of peace to know that God is at work, even though he felt far away.
This past week, we entered the season of Lent, which calls us to stretch our spiritual muscles beyond their comfort zones. Lent is a time of sacrifice, examining our faults, increasing our prayers and acknowledging that we can do better. Simply put, it’s a time to recognize that we do, truly, need some pruning.
I know that it is necessary, but it is not necessarily enjoyable.
I’m learning that when spiritual shaping feels especially rough, it’s good to remind ourselves that we are in the hands of the master gardener. Growth, in any form, comes with a sense of discomfort from time to time. I suppose it’s inevitable. Maybe we’re simply experiencing “growing pains.”
I remind myself to think of the end result—the glory of Easter, which is victory over shame, pain and utter brokenness. I’m comforted to know that ultimately there is an everlasting peace that no person, no illness, no mistake and absolutely no circumstance can take from us.
In Scripture, St. Peter reminds us to keep the faith during life’s trials and spiritual pruning.
“In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pt 1: 6-7).
Before I went to bad last night, I went to get a glass of water. My daughter had moved the refrigerator magnets around again. Right at eye level, I spotted a magnet which said, “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”
We must cling to our faith.