In this busy fall schedule, I’m already out of balance. Opportunities abound—more working hours, upcoming conferences, extracurricular activities. My center stagnates—exercise, family time, household maintenance, leisure, and sleep. I need to cut back somehow.
When I planted my garden in 2006, I set out 16 strawberry plants in a single row. I was too distracted by the needs of my young children to spend much time tending the garden. In three years those original plants multiplied by the hundreds, completely filling a 10’ x 16’ garden swath. By 2009 the berries were amazingly abundant—we picked three quarts per day for three weeks. But the row was so wide that we couldn’t get to berries at the row’s center without smashing precious others. Our harvest was plenty, but chaos loomed.
The next year (2010) the plants produced less prolifically and the berries were smaller. I read up on the plants, learning that berry farmers continually replace two- to three-year-old plants with runners from new plants. They must destroy the old plants to renew the crop and produce a plentiful harvest.
The situation overwhelmed me. Destroy hundreds of plants at the center and transplant dozens more at the edge? That could take a whole weekend I wasn’t willing to spend. I felt guilty for letting my garden get so out of control. I felt grieved about destroying plants that were still producing, though on a smaller scale. Frustrated, I put off my decision another few weeks, the whole garden suffering in wait.
One hot day as I push-mowed the garden’s perimeter, I brazenly cut down one square yard of strawberry plants. Expecting the crush of guilt, I was surprised by enormous relief. I mowed the whole row down and felt the weight of guilt lifting with each forward step. I saved plenty of runners to transplant, which I later moved into a closed bed to keep the plants under control.
This weekend I’m going to reflect on this Bible verse and my gardening experience. I want to destroy what’s consuming valuable space in my schedule—like too much time online. I want to transplant the healthy opportunities into a controlled area so they don’t overtake my schedule—such as setting a timer for writing. I want to maintain the necessary areas at my center so I have peace.
I will never achieve perfect balance. I will always have a wild runner invading tended space. I will always have a dead plant or two that need to be destroyed. However, I will no longer beat myself up with guilt. If I want to be fruitful in my spiritual life and my daily living, I need to tend my garden daily, both planting and pruning by God’s direction.
What do you need to prune from your schedule to increase fruit? What can you replant?