I didn’t grow up with shrubs. Our land had straight rows of beans and climbing snap-peas, potatoes snug in earth and basil all summer long. In the flower gardens my mother took the “English garden” look so they were always towering over with wildflowers, lilacs, low-lying hosta, and tiger lilies. I know how to hoe a line, weed a row, and mow the lawn, but never once in my life have I trimmed a shrub.
I live in the suburbs now, though, and shrubbery is the tree, flower, and vegetable of choice in a dry climate with water shortages.
This morning I stand in front of our dining room window and see the bush outside has grown more than halfway up the window. A smart, albeit aesthetically challenged, architect designed our home—all but two of our windows face north, so sunshine is a commodity and shrubbery is buying us out. Armed with a cup of coffee in one hand and a handheld trimmer meant to cut the stems of flower bunches, I go straight Edward Scissorhands on that bush.
I don’t know anything about trimming shrubs, but I know how to cut a branch and make a straight line, so I do my best.
In Texas some plants stay green all year long and the only way to know new life has come is the differentiation of greens. This bush was dark green all over with fresh cowlicks of bright yellow gold-green: the new growth. These must go.
Yesterday I cut something beautiful off of my life. I stood there and decided that sunshine was more important than the wildness of growth that I love. I abhor weeds, but I love green, and I confess, I leave what is green and good growing far longer than it should. I leave it because how can what seems so good be so bad?
I have been sitting deep in the book of Hebrews for a few months now, thinking about men and women who never saw what was promised—even though they spilled and wasted their lives full out, full on for the hope of glory. I have been thinking about setting aside sins and weights, shrubs that shield from sunlight and thorns that tear us from truth. I have been thinking about what it means to set my eyes on Jesus, who authored and finishes this whole story in which I live—and how sometimes the story He tells and the story I want Him to tell are so very different.
This morning I trim our shrub and I think about what it means to cut off what seems good for the hope of something better.
As each fresh, green-yellow shoot falls to the ground I feel my heart constrict and my eyes fill with tears. They will die there, apart from the whole, apart from the root. I remind myself in their death they make room for a fuller shrub, a kaleidoscope of greens.
I stand back to admire my work, but the truth is without a hedge-trimmer my lines are crooked, there are no flat lines, no tea-parties to be had on the table-top of this shrub.
Inside, though, a full line of sunlight falls across the back of a chair at the table. I sit and finished my coffee.