Adventures In Pruning

by Shawn Richard

I dread pruning. I resist the whole entire process. Trimming freeze-burned plants, cutting back dead branches, discovering a dead frog and a suspicious looking discarded snake skin, hauling all the debris to it’s burial place, raking and raking….and raking, mulching and bagging.

Why do oak trees insist on shedding leaves over the course of 2 or 3 months, and then punctuate their never ending fall with the inevitable yellow pollen of doom? Why do lizards jump at me from out of nowhere? How come I forget about fire ants until there are 200 of them stinging my feet? This is sooooo hard! My back aches, my knees hurt, my hands have scratches and tiny irritating cuts (I wear gloves, how does this happen?), and what is this strange rash on my arm? I am covered in mulched leaf dust from head to toe. I sneeze…alot.

The adventures in pruning begin around the end of February for me. The entire month I watch and wait for the perfect weather, the first signs that spring might be just around the corner. Of course, there is dread. I procrastinate and complain. I make idle threats about hiring someone to do this for me, but all the while knowing that I will do it myself. Who had the great idea to plant red oak trees in the backyard? Dread, I tell you. Moaning and groaning the whole way.

When I am finished (by the way, I am NOT finished yet. This year, it is taking me forever to get done), everything looks harsh, stripped bare and, well… still dead. The work is hard, time consuming and painful. I do NOT enjoy this part of gardening, not even a little bit. So why do it? Well, if I don’t, the grass will struggle to get water and sun (being covered by 6 inches of leaves and pollen). The flowers will have a hard time coming back from the roots if there is a layer of dead stems to contend with. The weeds (that never seem to ever die, no matter how cold it gets) will take over the world and choke out everything in sight. I prune because the result is beautiful, and worth every minute spent on it. In a few short weeks, with the help of irrigation and sunny days, I will sit on my back porch with a lovely glass of wine and enjoy.

I cannot say that I am a master gardener, but I love to plant colorful flowers and fragrant herbs. My spirit is restored by the sounds of a running stream, joyful birdsong and the soft breeze that plays on the wind chimes. I breathe in the fragrance of a fresh, sweet spring rain. I know that weeds will need to be pulled and the fig ivy trimmed back, but I don’t mind the weeding and trimming…it feels good — like therapy, in a way.

The hard part is done, and the maintenance of a beautiful garden is part of why it is beautiful, right?

I do love all of the parallels that God has shown me while I garden. Pruning. It is hard and often painful. The Holy Spirit reveals the dead and useless debris I must cut out of my life to enjoy the beauty of constant fellowship with Him. He longs for me to spend time with Him, and to love and serve people well. When I seek after Him first, and listen to His leading and correcting, I experience the joy of a well-tended life. He is faithful and unfailing. He shows me more and more of His amazing character.

Pruning is part of my beautiful garden process, but more importantly, my LIVING process. As long as I live in a broken world, I must tend it. Procrastinating only makes it worse and the result of ignoring it is not worth the cost and pain. I wish that pruning my life were as “easy” as pruning my garden. But, the reward awaits, and it is gonna be perfect.


Shawn Richard was one of the first worship leaders of CityChurch. Together with the other founding pastors, she and her husband Mark Richard started CityChurch in 1992.

Shawn has a daughter, Brittany Laws, who is a Service Producer at the Bandera Road Campus of CityChurch, and a son, Wesley, who is an Electrical Design Engineer for HM3 Engineering. She is also a proud grandmother of 2 little boys, Jack and Finley. She loves her family, being outdoors, and writing. Shawn and Mark live in Helotes, and both are involved in the leadership of CityChurch.

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