My son has autism spectrum disorder along with being hearing impaired and having epilepsy. He is a sweet-natured, brilliant little boy who continually provides excitement to my life. Honestly, never a dull moment. When he brought home a scrawny little cabbage seedling home from school it was like someone had given him a new puppy. I was reminded repeatedly that we had to plant it right away or it would die. Now, I have never grown anything in my life…I can’t even keep houseplants alive…and here was this little cabbage with SO much riding on it. As we all know, nothing is really “free” and after purchasing the largest container I could find (this was a megacabbage), garden soil, a watering can, plant food, gloves (do you know what they PUT in garden soil), and even a little gnome to keep watch, we had spent a nice amount of money in this gardening venture. Following the two sentences of instructions on the pot, Seymour the cabbage was planted.
At this point even I was invested in this little plant. Each week we counted leaves, watered, fed, and watched as he grew a few leaves at a time. After 8 weeks the scrawny little cabbage seedling had grown into a 3 foot diameter monster. My son had lost some of his interest in gardening, but not me. I was so excited that not only had I kept the plant alive, but it was thriving and doing what it was supposed to do-a rarity around here. Of course it then developed not one, but two heads (nothing can be normal at this house)…that’s when disaster struck.
The heads were not growing as fast as they should and some of the large leaves began to yellow. Due to the quickly rising southern heat it was requiring a gallon of water a day to keep it from wilting. I was feeding, watering, rolling it in and out of the garage during inclement weather (we used a skateboard underneath as it was now too heavy to lift), and singing the song from Little Shop of Horrors, “Please grow for me”. I read that sometimes you have to remove the lower leaves so that they don’t steal nutrients from the heads. Hack up my precious??? Never! (Insert my Gollum impression here) Then holes appeared on the leaves-there were caterpillars-I had to take action.
Armed with my scissors and insecticide I went to save Seymour. I carefully picked off all the caterpillars (who would not be eating anyone ELSE’s cabbage ever again) and picked up my scissors. As I started to cut off the big leaves around the base, leaving only the ones that surrounded each head, I was reminded of the story in John 15 about the vine of life. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:2)
It was like God was speaking to me in the midst of all my cutting, and spraying, and caterpillar stomping. Just as I was “pruning” our cabbage to help it be more fruitful, to cut away the bad parts so that it was stronger-I believe that God prunes us as well. Sometimes the things we face in life occur to make us stronger. When we’re tested by the fires of our difficulties and come through, we are forged stronger than we were before…and sometimes we need to prune away the things that holding us back from being our best. Maybe unhealthy habits, toxic people, negative thoughts, maybe even our own attitudes are holding us back from growing, like the extra leaves were robbing the head of what it needed to grow. Maybe by doing a little pruning on ourselves, and removing these things from our lives, we save ourselves and become stronger, bigger, better. I know that while I am rarely thrilled at the trials life throws at me, I have become a better, stronger person because of them. Amazing how God can speak through cabbages and caterpillars.