By Brother Frank Natoli
Many years ago, my wife and I bought our first home, a wonderful little 1940s house with lots of charm. After asking the Lord to direct us, we purchased the house and took ownership in February. (By the way, the Lord worked out a great deal for us.)
Since all of this took place in the winter months, we never actually saw the grass, landscaping, or flower beds because it was snow-covered, but we were told that the previous owner had planted many beautiful flowers. When spring came, daffodils were everywhere, followed by all types of beautiful plants, including Lily of the Valley, which became my favorite.
With all of that beauty came a number of flowering trees, including a pink flowering ornamental crab-apple tree that was very old and very large. The tree blossomed with gorgeous pink flowers, so many that you couldn’t see the leaves on the tree. The tree stood 30 to 40 feet high. It was an old tree, but it was so beautiful, and the blossoms exploded with color and fragrance. Our older neighbors, who had lived in the neighborhood for many years, even commented on the beauty of the tree. They said they never saw the tree so full of blossoms! I was so proud to be the owner of MY tree!
Well, spring passed, summer came, and soon fall was upon us. Forgetting about the beauty of the spring blossoms, I looked out my front window on a cool Saturday morning, and I saw the same tree in a different light. Its leaves had all fallen, and I saw an overgrown, almost ugly tree. I recalled the spring blossoms but decided (without telling my wife — bad idea) that this old tree needed pruning.
I’d seen my father and grandfather prune fruit trees before, so I figured I knew enough. I didn’t have all the correct tools, but I figured a ladder and a hand saw would do. After about four hours of cutting, sawing, and pruning away, my wife came outside and said, “You’ve killed it. There’s nothing left of our tree!” Soon the neighbors were coming out and saying the very same thing!
Fall passed and winter’s cold wind and snow forced me to look at MY tree every day and wonder if I’d killed it. The tree stood there, bare, with hardly any branches, its limbs hacked off, looking like it was attacked with a chain saw from a bad movie.
Finally spring came, and within weeks it began to show signs of life! At least it wasn’t dead, but would it ever blossom or bear fruit again? The branches started to fill out, first with small leaves and then with blossoms. Within the month, my neighbors were commenting about MY tree again! They couldn’t believe how it could withstand such a severe pruning and still blossom.
But in my heart, I knew that the scriptures told me that the Lord loves those whom He corrects (Proverbs 3:12). When He corrects and prunes out the bad, I will bear better fruit by being stronger. I also knew that although I loved MY tree, if I pruned it, it would be a better, more productive tree in the long run. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit he purgeth it, that it bring forth more fruit” (John 15: 1-2).
What does this tree story have to do with my life or yours? Every day I try to ask the Lord to help me see the things in my life — my bad attitude, my controlling mannerisms, my ________ (you fill in the blank) — that I can cut out. Some might look at me and see good or bad, but I care about pleasing the Lord and bearing more fruit (love, peace, joy, long-suffering, patience, and more).