My husband, the Preacher—aka the Gardener—became interested in bonsai trees years ago. Books were borrowed from the library, conversations with other tiny-tree-lovers took place as we stopped at every nursery in town. Finally, purchasing a couple small hand tools and choosing his first specimen, he plunged in.
The tree he brought home was a juniper (or pine or something like that). It stood about three feet tall, with branches extended all around, from top to bottom. Almost looked like a Christmas tree.
He and the tree disappeared to the greenhouse for a couple hours. Later he reappeared to show off his handiwork. The poor thing was less than half its original height! And most of the branches were gone! He had wrapped the few branches remaining with wire. And fresh soil in the smaller pot proved he had attacked the roots, too.
He stood there, beaming.
I was stunned!
Wow! What did you do to it? I asked.
I’m turning it into a bonsai, he said.
Yeah, but… there’s hardly anything left!
Thirty-plus years later he still loves plants—and points out that preaching and botany go well together. William Carey, missionary to India (late 1700s-early 1800s) collected and catalogued rare tropical plants, eventually developing the largest botanical garden in the Eastern world.
Some husbands today collect old cars, guns, power tools, hunting trophies… my husband collects plants—in pots, in the yard, the garden, and especially in miniature. He’s been known to rescue wilting orchids from the clearance shelf at LOWE’s and grocery stores at the end of the growing season, bring them home, and revive them with his magic touch!
A few of his little trees, now after many years of stunted growth, could be considered living artwork. Tiny leaves on delicate branches… exposed roots reaching into a minuscule plot of ground carpeted by moss… trunks no thicker than my finger, appearing older, more weathered than they really are (which is a good thing in the world of bonsai).
At times, I feel like a bonsai tree in God’s garden. While spending my years growing lots of healthy branches with thick foliage, I look at myself and feel pretty pleased with all this growth. Until God comes at me with his clippers and saw… and begins pruning!
He starts by chopping a foot or two off the top. Then, he cuts and clips and snips… removing branch after branch—until there’s hardly anything left!
I’m laid bare, with only a few branches remaining… so many of my beautiful boughs—gone!
Devastated, I cry out, But God, what are You doing? This can’t be good for me! I don’t understand!
Seeming to ignore my cries, very gently and with capable hands He wraps wire around each branch, positioning them for growth in the direction He chooses. Having my roots pruned is just as painful. Finally I’m shoved into a pot with barely any room to stretch.
His plans leave me feeling awkward, uncomfortably confined… not anything like the plans and hopes I’ve cherished over the years.
Eventually, though, my limbs and roots become accustomed to their new arrangement. Looking around I see other trees in similar positions as mine. Some are more seasoned than I am, more stately, more impressive… others are new additions to the garden, still young, still learning… yet all have one thing in common:
We belong to a Gardener Who knows and loves and cares for His trees like no other gardener ever has, or ever will. If we’re patient… if we’re willing to yield to His masterful hands, in time we will be more useful, more inspiring than anything we could produce on our own.
Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6
Given enough time, the unique beauty of a bonsai undeniably points to its Creator.