A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of “the perfect storm.”
I was still pregnant and close to giving birth to my (first) daughter. I had just received yet another insulting form of rejection from a person whom I have kept in my life for far too long. I spent that week’s therapy session discussing the role of this person in my life, the emotional importance her relationship served, and how welcoming my daughter into the world would likely change how I felt about that relationship. Then, at the end of that week I attended our new church where the message of the sermon was about Matthew 7:18 – “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.”
I listened closely to the pastor that Sunday. He said, “When things aren’t what they used to be, you have to change what you’re used to doing.”
People love truth, and people love authenticity. There is a low tolerance for the inauthentic in our society. The tree that bears fruit is the perfect example of the difference between the authentic and the inauthentic. Just as a tree grows and develops fruit over time, we as people grow and develop our habits and behaviours. Just as a person would stop picking and eating rotten fruit from a bad tree, they would also stop dealing with or interacting with a person who routinely showed poor or inauthentic behaviours.
I used to think that I was the person with the poor our inauthentic behaviours: Why would someone be so hurtful towards me and make such an effort to exclude me from their life? I have worked hard over the years to overcome this thought, attributing it to my low self-esteem that developed from my difficult childhood and poor relationships with my parents. It may have taken years to believe this truth, but I am not a bad tree – I am a good tree that bears good fruit. I really am.
However, even good trees have branches that are heavy and burdensome – branches that are overgrown and don’t produce any fruit. These branches take up the resources and energy of the tree and prevent it from producing abundant fruit. This idea reminded me of the advice I received from a fellow gardener last summer when I asked her about her fruitful tomato plants. She told me to trim off all of the branches on my tomato plants that were not growing tomatoes. This way the plant would stop wasting energy on the branches that weren’t growing fruit and instead would use that energy to grow bigger, more healthy tomatoes. I used her advice and sure enough, my tomatoes grew bigger and faster.
If a tree is a metaphor for my life, it is only natural that I would have these heavy, burdensome branches that are weighing me down. It is only natural, then, that I should need to prune my own boughs with the hopes of removing those parts of my life that are only causing me grief, so that I can concentrate more on the best parts of my life. The pastor continues on in his sermon, addressing the need for pruning in our lives. Like the gardener’s advice for my tomato plants, he quoted another part of the scripture: “The farmer cuts off branches that bear no fruit and prunes the ones that do bear fruit so that they will be more fruitful.” He continued on, addressing all of us and saying rather matter-of-factly: “Most of us know exactly what areas of our lives need to be pruned.”
Despite all this advice, pruning is not easy; It is the targeted removal of something from our lives. It isn’t fun – it cuts to the core, it is invasive, painful, and it is cutting something out of your life that needs to be removed.
For 18 months I have let myself hold onto the idea or illusion that Kay would come back into my life and that we would, gain, have some kind of friendship. The timing of this sermon immediately after the mix-up/rejection from Kay was nothing more than perfect. And, what better time to prune something so heavy and fruitless from my life than right before I prepare to welcome my daughter into my life.
My relationship with Kay initially sprouted from a need to fill in the missing mother-daughter relationship in my life. It may have worked for a small while. But there is never a replacement for the real thing – and now I am at the beginning of the best most real opportunity to develop this type of relationship… With my very own daughter.