This post is submitted by our Children’s Ministries Director, Erin Skifter
Many years ago I was given a hydrangea plant. The hydrangea is characterized by large, lush leaves and beautiful, full flower clusters in shades of pink, periwinkle and white. The flowers can be so full that when my sister and I used to play “bride”, we’d use a single stem to represent the bouquet. They are also known for changing color depending on the composition of the soil. These characteristics make up the identity of the hydrangea and we recognize the type of plant from them. But this week we had work done on the porch and my lovely, full hydrangea was moved out into the full sun. Today, I found it scorched-the full leaves black and dry in the worst parts. There was nothing to do but cut it down to the lowest buds.
I also have characteristics that make up my identity. Some external like pastor’s wife and twin mom. Some come from what I’ve done like foster-care advocate or homeschooler. Others come from within like leader, dreamer, exhorter or networker. What happens when the areas where I expressed my identity are taken away? When God closes the door on fostering more children? Or, I’m no longer in many of my former leadership positions? When relationships are stripped away whether from friends moving away, social distancing, or even sin on my part or theirs? Then who am I?
When pruning the once beautiful leaves off my plant, I realized that this cutting away was really helping the growth of the plant. The large top leaves eventually block light and water to the plant and even worse, hide dead spots or deadly varmints like snails ((shudder)) In Isaiah 5, God planted a lovely vineyard-which was Israel and Judah-but after their rebellion the prophet tells them “I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; (verse 6)”. Israel’s punishment was actually that God would no longer prune them!
I may not be leading right now but I am in a time of learning to submit (Romans 13, Eph 5:22, Heb 13:17). I may not be actively speaking into the lives of other women, but there are two boys entrusted into my care who need discipleship (Proverbs 6:20, 2 Tim. 1:5). I may not currently have “a tribe”, but I am learning to be content with only Jesus (Phil. 4). There is pain in the pruning process-but as I see in my hydrangea: even though the flashy leaves and flowers are gone, the roots are strong. Through the removal, I can see that the stems are already showing evidence of new growth.