For the second week in a row we went around the circle and introduced ourselves, told why we were interested in reading a novel about four women who meet on a spiritual retreat and why our hearts were pulled to discuss the book with others.
This woman had been there before, had driven the 45 minutes to hear what we were learning from the characters and from our questions. But this time, as we told our names and our stories to the new people, she mentioned owning an apple orchard.
I told of my three crazy boys, of make-shift wrestling matches in the living room and of being suspicious of silence in our house. And once we were no longer strangers, we talked about “Sensible Shoes: A Story about the Spiritual Journey” and how we could see sticky notes and dog-eared pages in the books we held in our hands.
“What parts did you underline? What parts meant the most to you?” I asked.
One woman turned to page 15, where Hannah, one of the main characters, is being reminded of a sermon she preached about God pruning things like a gardener would. Hannah had told her congregation that pruning isn’t punishment – it’s improvement.
“I had never thought of that scripture that way,” the woman said as others chimed in about pruning and its painfulness.
But the woman with the orchard shook her head and waited for a turn to speak.
Pruning is essential, she said, and we do it more than once a year because the trees need space. The fruit needs nutrients. And pruning allows for more light.
That last thought – the one about the light? That’s the one that keeps ringing in my ears. That’s the one that has me asking what I need to let go of so God and love and light can more easily find their way through my muddled mess.
Maybe it’s my own expectations that could stand to be cut back or the binge watching on Netflix that could be trimmed a bit. Maybe I could take the scissors to my spending, my procrastination and a hundred other bad habits that pull time and nutrients from my soul.
The gardener knows with each snip, there would be room for more light and stronger growth.