When spring arrives, the earth breathes, birds whistle in the trees, windows fly open, fresh air and bright light cut patterns through murky indoor air to reveal...a hot mess of clutter, dirt, and potential mildew in my house.
Where did that dirt come from? Whose socks are these? Ugh, what is that SMELL? There’s nowhere to put anything. How did we end up with so much STUFF?
Between the “giving” season which fills my home to capacity, endless days spent indoors tracking possessions, dirt, and odors from room to room, and inclement weather preventing any form of escape, winter destroys my house every single year. I’m guessing I’m not alone seeing as “Spring cleaning” is a thing.
Living in a small home, I often feel as though I am in an eternal battle against my stuff. I attack my things and downsize, and my things retreat to the point where they inhabit a reasonable amount of space in my life. But before long, they regroup and counterattack, overtaking my home once more.
This year as I clean my home, and consequently de-clutter it, I am trying to view the entire process as “pruning.”
If you’ve ever tended a garden, you may know something about pruning. If not, here’s an overly simplified explanation: Branches are competitive. In order to grow into a healthy, fruit-bearing plant, many of these branches must be cut. Weak branches that fail to bear fruit are removed so that the plant does not waste energy tending to them. Overly strong branches are also cut in order to give other branches a fighting chance. Without weak branches to care for, the plant is able to give more water, sunlight, and attention to its other branches. Without the greedy strong branches stealing the spotlight, the other branches are able to better compete for power and position. The entire plant grows healthier and stronger.
As I work on cleaning my home this spring, I don’t just see kids’ toys and clothing and kitchen items. I see branches. In my mind I have an image of what a healthy home should look like. If an item doesn’t contribute to this healthy home ideal, it is a “weak branch,” and it can leave my home. I no longer waste any time or energy caring for it, and have more time and energy for the things in my life that matter. Consequently, my home grows into a more beautiful and purposeful space in which to live.
Sometimes when pruning, a branch has to be cut not because it’s weak, but because it’s TOO strong. When a singular branch grows to block the sunlight from other branches or to demand too much of the water, or to signal to the stem that it is the only branch worth being a branch, a tree begins to grow lopsided. This imbalance can contribute to a plant’s ultimate downfall as imbalanced plants are more likely to fall over in a fierce wind or storm.
Likewise, in my home, some things are fantastic but they still need to go. Even if they fit with my home ideal, they can diminish the overall beauty and purpose of my space if I neglect to exercise moderation. The phrase “too much of a good thing” comes to mind.
As I think about pruning my home of clutter this spring to reveal a beautiful and purposeful space, I reflect on doing the same for my spiritual life. God is the gardener who helps us as Christians grow by “pruning” us. As difficult things occur in our lives, we turn to God and he helps us through them. We grow stronger and closer to him through this process, full of beauty and purpose in Him.
Jesus says in John 15:1-2 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
My spiritual life needs constant upkeep as well. Sometimes I resist this upkeep and struggle to remain an imbalanced branch, allowing good things to become too important (nothing is good if it distracts me from God) while evil, weak things (my sins) suck unnecessary life out of me. I pray for God as the gardener to continue to “prune” me despite my stubborn lack of growth and resistance. It’s not always fun to learn a difficult lesson through a painful experience (even if that painful experience is simply cutting distractions from my life- or spring cleaning- ha!), but overcoming these experiences with the help of God allows me to grow stronger and closer to Him.
Are you “pruning” your home this spring? Have you noticed God doing any “pruning” in your spiritual life recently?