You can improve the size and quality of fruit in your life, by applying a few good gardening techniques. After my earth day post, 7 ways to go beyond, Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse, I decided it was important to practice what I preach, so I went out and bought 4 vegetable plants: two types of tomatoes and two types of peppers. My 12 year old, Matt, and I planted them. A couple of days later my kids (Ruth and Matt) and I were coming in from the car and I invited them out to see the plants. I met them out by our four new seedlings with a pair of scissors in hand. The kid’s were surprised at how much the plants had grown in just two days. As we looked at one of the tomato plants and I handed Matt the scissors, I said, “You see those little flowers. That’s what’s going to become the fruit. Each of those little flowers over time becomes a tomato. Cut’em off.” Matt, exclaimed with obvious confusion, “Why?” I then explained how we wanted the energy of the plant to go to building the root system right now. Those little flowers look great and offer the promise of some really quick fruit, but in the long run, the plant is better off working on its roots. Next, I pointed out the “suckers”. “See those little branches growing between the main stalk and the main branches. Those are called suckers. They are taking up valuable energy we want used else where. Cut it off.” So snip, snip, and the suckers were gone.
So, what’s so bad about suckers?
The author of Hebrews, wrote, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumberance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
Pardon the mixing of metaphors here, but he is talking about pruning. Laying aside every encumberance and sin is snipping off the suckers. We all have activities or sins that suck away vital energy. If we don’t cut off the suckers, our lives can rapidly become like an unpruned plant. An unpruned plant is very full and vibrant looking, but the quality and size of the fruit is seriously compromised. Or in some cases a plant becomes so overburdened with suckers that it is pulled down to the ground and much of the fruit begins to rot as it rest against the soil. Limbs of the plants can actually snap off beneath the weight. Plants sprawled all over the ground in a terrible tangle are also more susceptible to diseases and pests. Does any of that sound similar to your life?
If you are…
- feeling overburdened and drug to the ground
- really busy but not productive
- finding your best efforts are producing fruit that is minimal or rotting where it lies
- getting sick
- swarmed by pests (temptations) and unable to fight them off
- dropping limbs, i.e. you can’t effectively support everything you are attempting to do
…then you probably need a pruning. Here is how to get started.
Identify the Suckers
The thing about a sucker is you only know it’s a sucker because of its relationship to the main trunk and core branches. If you have no idea what the main trunk is in your life or the core branches, then you can’t identify the suckers. They are the little things that want to shove in between your core purpose and priorities. So, to prune you need to figure out what’s core. The trunk shouldn’t be hard to find. Scripture tells us that we are to “Seek first the kingdom of God.” The main branches you need to identify.
So what are the suckers for you. Here are a few of mine:
- Watching movies
- Trying to please people
- Getting lost in books
- Saying yes, to commitments I can do, but really should do.
- Performing tasks myself, that should be delegated
- Rehearsing old junk in my head that is long past
- Worrying about things in the future, that I can’t do anything about
- Staying up late needlessly
- Checking email far more often than necessary
You get the idea. I am sure you can figure out your suckers pretty rapidly. Now some of these things are not inherently wrong. For example, Facebook can be an awesome tool, but when it’s over done to the point that it is zapping my productivity or sleep, that’s just idiotic.
If you are uncertain about whether something is a sucker or not, then ask yourself, “Does this activity lead me toward the outcome I want?” or even more specifically, “Does this activity help me achieve what God wants me to do?” You can actually prevent a bunch of suckers by applying this question when planning. I sit down on Monday mornings and after having my prayer time, I create a list of “outcomes for the week”. I then write my to-do list for the week based upon the outcomes. I have found this really helps me focus my time more cleanly. Keep in mind that some suckers may actually be beneficial. You don’t have to hack off every one. In fact, with a tomato plant you need to leave enough suckers to shade the tomatoes so they do not suffer from sun scald.
Once you have identified, what needs to go, then cut, cut, cut away. Don’t hesitate, equivocate, rationalize, or justify, just get rid of the suckers.
Blessings to you from The Practical Disciple as you prune
p.s. For those of you who literally like to plant tomatoes or are interested in trying, here is a great website on the basics of tomato gardening, Growing Tomatoes.