JJ has been less than impressed with my contribution to the family garden this summer. I blame it on our constant comings and goings, but the fact remains I nary picked up a hose this summer nor reached into the dirt to pull a weed or 5. Now, as the tomato harvest overwhelms us, I’m left to pay up.

tomato plant

Image credit: CC Benjamin Chun

The first time I went into our patch of plants, I realized part of the problem lied in our poor spacial skills. Our plants live very close to one another and, because of it, the leaves on the bottom part of the plant die quickly. I remembered my friend Dan Who Knows Everything had said that those leaves actually inhibit growth – if they’re not taking in sun to nourish the plant, then they’re taking nutrients away from budding fruit. If memory serves me correctly, he used to trim the bottom leaves from his plants as they were growing to increase productivity.

Last week I made an appointment with a pair of scissors and that garden. I hacked away at all the deadness beneath the surface. And lo! What did I behold? More fruit. There were tomatoes in there I couldn’t see through the brush. And now with the plants a little lighter on the bottom, our harvest is multiplying. I’m actually not sure what we’ll do with all the tomatoes other than offer them as a parting gift to anyone within a 50 foot radius of our front door. Perhaps I’ll take them out to the bus stop and give them to small children on their way to school. They enjoy that, don’t they? Fresh, raw vegetables as a treat?

Gardening is my spiritual metaphor so often – I know, it’s largely overdone. I reflected as I snipped and snapped through the tomato forest, I wonder where I need to trim things up in my life. What is taking all that sunlight and energy my body and life is making and rerouting it away from nourishing good fruit? What dead leaves remain that hide the good things already growing so that no eye can behold them, let alone enjoy them?

[box] But what happens when you live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Galatians 5:22-23)[/box]

Am I not showing the fruit of affection for my kids? Serenity with my work? Compassion for those not like me? Perhaps it’s not because I’m not growing fruit. Perhaps it’s because the dead weight in my life keeps them from my line of vision. I often hear people say, “I need to grow more patience.” I’m not convinced you do. I think it’s probably growing – at least budding – in there. Ask, instead, what might be getting in the way? Are we too stressed by a busy schedule to enjoy moments of joy? Are we overwhelmed with financial worries that we cannot slumber in peace?

Don’t be as concerned with the fruit: spend some time pruning the plant.

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