I hear the best time to prune roses is in the early spring. (To prune is to trim a tree, shrub, or bush by cutting away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth). Most people are hesitant to make the cuts, but not my Dad. Growing up in Florida, our winters didn’t reach bone-numbing temperatures, but when a January night would threaten to drop below 30, he would cover our rose bushes with blankets to protect them. They didn’t bloom much during the winter, but he knew the beauty they were capable of, so he shielded them from the biting, cold air anyway. Then in the first signs of spring, it was time to trim. Dad would be in the rose bush, carefully examining and cutting the stems. All it takes to know where to cut is a close inspection. A healthy stem is identified by a pure, white center. Dead stem, snip. Damaged stem, snip. Any stem that crowded or crossed over the center of the bush, snip, snip, snip. The right kind of cut is essential to a healthy, flowering rose bush. Throughout the summer and early fall, the roses never ceased to bloom. But winter would inevitably arrive again like a bad memory and the roses would numbly endure, covered in faded blankets from our linen closet.
Growing a garden requires hard work, discipline, and initiative, but also follows an organic, natural process that can’t be rushed. We can’t make winter shorter or summer last longer and failing to prune the flowers could lead to having no blooms at all. Sometimes I find myself in a season I don’t want to be in. There are dreams I have, skills I want to develop, weaknesses I can’t get rid of and relationships that aren’t where I’d like them to be. All these elements seem to be “in process” with few moments of actualization or resolution.
Oh, elusive patience. Telling someone in waiting to “just be patient” is like telling someone during a breakdown to “just calm down”. To truly be patient requires a confidence in the process, hope for the future and action in the waiting. I can be impulsive and short-tempered, but what encourages me to pursue patience is knowing that my waiting is not in vain. We can take steps toward resolving relational discord, developing skills and realizing dreams all with the knowledge that time is our friend and growth follows an organic process. Throughout our lifetimes, we will be painfully pruned. At times, we’re a shell of the life we could be, covered in faded blankets waiting for winter to pass. But those seasons never last forever. As surely as spring arrives each year, there will also be times of visible growth and flourishing.
My prayer for years now has been that God would mold and shape me into the woman He created me to become. The woman He envisioned when He knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139). It lifts me up, yet humbles me to know God thought (and thinks) about me; to know my existence wasn’t (and isn’t) an accident. A beautiful life isn’t always bliss. It’s deeper and more valuable than superficial happiness. Being protected, pruned, watered, nurtured, and cared for is a far better existence to hope for; receiving this attention means we are the prized creation of the one who gave us life (James 1:16-18).