"The most important of life's battles is the one we fight daily in the silent chambers of the soul."

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Orchard of Love

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Galatians 5:22

Dark clouds roll in from the north, darkening the orchard. Winds start picking up, cooling my face. I've spent several weeks getting the fruit trees back in good health. The last one sits at the edge of the orchard by itself. This one is the most neglected. The vines have completely overtaken it and choked it off. Branches are broken from the weight of the invader vines, preventing very little leaves from growing. What once was an abundant, fruit bearing tree has now become a mass of twisted vines...the poor tree has a deep root system that had grown way before it was taken over, allowing it to hold on awhile longer.

I remember the days of Springs past, when Dad and I would gather buckets of fruit, pears to be exact. That old tree would bear two or three times a year. The tops of the buckets would be overflowing. Buckets so heavy, that I had to drag them alot of times to the kitchen door. Where Mom would be waiting, waiting to make them into my favorite treat, pear preserves. Many a cold, winter I was glad to have done the hard work so I could enjoy, the fruits of my labor, snicker....as I would chuckle to myself.

But time had taken away from me tending to the fruit trees. Neglect and forgetting had caused them to be overtaken. Since my divorce I had moved back to the old home place to take care of my mother. Between the fix this and repair that, I made my way to the orchard. Saving what I could, and discarding the others. This one was going to be the most difficult to save. And time was running short.

I took the pruners and the saw, starting to work on the lower branches and working my way up. Ripping and tearing at vines. Grabbing big handfuls of vines wrapped around tree branches. Taking branch and all down sometimes. The sky had darkened alot...but gave a cool relief from the hot sun. Still early spring I had hoped there was still time to save it. The breeze whipped the branches around as I tried to get a hold of each one.

Then, she came, walking up. Coming by to see the children as she does after work, until her time to take them comes. She yelled, "Need any help." "Be nice." So she proceeded to rip and tear at the vines, unraveling them from the branches they were smothering. I said,"You know, this tree is like a person's heart. Left alone to be neglected and forgotten the vines of this world take root. Blend into the tree so it doesn't notice it. Making it jaded and grotestique looking till its no longer recognizable." And I grabbed a vine, pulling the roots out. Throwing each one out into the field, as the wind blowed my hair around, I seen her listening, not speaking, just listening. "So, we have to take out the roots to make sure the vines don't come back. Just, as the heart, has to take out the vines that were choking it off of its supply of love."

Seeing our efforts weren't solving the problem...I started pruning limbs back. Dead limbs that were killing the tree, and some limbs that were so weighed down with so many vines, there was no way to save them. Snip. Snap. Crack. Branches fell. Hitting me sometimes. Cutting me other times. "You do this for someting you love. The tree doesn't mean to hurt me, but in the process of saving it, things I do hurt me deeply to save it. Just like saving a heart. The person your loving, who may not feel the same, doesn't mean to hurt you. The bad things your pulling away sometimes smacks you in the face. It cuts and wounds your own heart with the words they say. But you don't stop cause the season is changing and the storm is coming in. You only have a limited time to save it. So, you endure the pain, and press on. There's time for healing later."

We press on. Her listening silently, no comment. The wind is blowing stronger. I have to cut all the branches off. There remains one last branch at the top. It has some green leaves in it. But there is a mass of vines globbed on top of it. So, I have to decide what to do. "Don't cut it. It's the only bit of green left on the tree. Without it, it will die," she cries over the howling wind. "Bring me a chair. Quickly. I'll see what I can do." Reaching up, I notice all I can do is cut it. " I'll have to cut it. It's the only way to save it. Maybe the season is early enough to grow more green once the last of the vines are gone,"I yell. Its getting so dark I can hardly see the top and where to cut. My muscles ache as I stretch to reach it. I know this is my last chance, the storms were to last several days, and I won't be getting another opportunity again. Thump! The last branch falls as the downpour starts.

We run underneath the carport as the bottom falls out. The rain runs off the roof down the gutters gurgling all the way from all the flooding water. We stand there looking at each others eyes. "You didn't have to cut it off." "I had to save it. Sometimes, God saves our hearts by cutting off that one last thing that is holding our hearts back from love. The gardner who loves his orchard will do what is necessary to save his trees. Even, if it means something drastic cause he doesn't want them to suffer needlessly, cause they can't bear fruit. We can't bare fruits of the Spirit, the heart can't bear love. Just like the pear tree appeared old and gnarled...with no blossoms at all. Though it appears to look like a post now...hopefully with the water from this rain in the ground and the help of the sun, and the little bees. We will see the tree growing and doing well, full of leaves, and see some fruit. Like the heart will be ready to bear some fruit if its loved and taken care of. Now the fruit early in the season will taste bitter cause its not ready yet. Just as the human heart will still display some bitterness cause its now quite ready yet. The next time you come to the tree after this it should be heavy laden with ripe, beautiful golden and red pears. It should be full of these ripe and delicious pears ready to pick. Just as the heart should now be ready to be approached then; being filled with love, kindness, humbleness, and mercy. Being sweet to all who approach it. All because the gardner remembered how it use to be with the tree. And hopefully, his love, with God's help can restore what once was."

She just looked, no response. She nodded. We kissed. We had been seeing other for awhile. Trying to rebuild what once was. I can no more blame her than I can blame the tree. I had asked her to marry me, she accepted. Just like the tree accepted to be planted. And years of neglect and focus on other things caused it to be in the condition I found it. I just chose to look the other way. To focus elsewhere. And her heart was overrun by others, who like the vine pretend to be your friend climbing up you but ultimately, their just vines. Choking my heart and her heart to death. Until our orchard no longer bares the sweet fruits of love. Just barren or rotton fruit. Not worth consuming by anyone. Making us bitter and unpleasant to be around.

But in my soul searching it has lead me to this place. For me to learn that the world's half truths are nothing but vines, fit for ripping up and throwing on the fire before they consume another fruit tree (heart).
My prayer is : Great Gardner, You once put a man and woman in a garden to tend to the most beautiful of Your creation. Only to fail You. I have failed you in my garden. My orchard. You created a help mate...for You said that its not good for man to be alone. Yet, I feel so alone. Even though I see her now. My heart's love has still not broke through the vines. Only Your love can untangle the mess my years of neglect and taking for granite have caused, only Your love living through me can save her heart. I pray I'm not too late. Help me to wait upon You, to show Your love through me. I can only love so deeply, only through Your love can I learn to love deeper, cause my roots don't go as deep as Your does. Plant our hearts near the river of Your Living Water. But this time....plant us side by side so we have to grow together and protect each other from the things of the day. And when your cool breeze blows through the branches of our hearts....remind us that we love each other and You loved us first and always. Amen.

Lance Gargus

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