(A SEASON OF NEW GROWTH #10)
Wednesday, June 23rd
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
(Micah 6:8 NRSV)
How often have you entered a room only to wonder, “Now why did I come in here?” I do this quite often – and even more so as I age! I forget my original intention because I am distracted by other needs or preoccupied by other thoughts. Sometimes I must return to the previous room so I can recall my original purpose. Today’s reflection helps us to keep our best purposes and spiritual intentions flourishing and focused by pruning the nonessentials.
Before we begin pruning, we are wise to first discern what our life essentials include. The isolation of the past year has helped me to rediscover a few of my essentials; I gained a deeper appreciation for family togetherness, a greater awareness of my need to write, a more spiritual connection through my daily walks, and even a stronger preference for eating healthy dinners at home. Once we understand what matters most to us – and to God – we can begin to prune the nonessentials to make more space for the essentials.
In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown describes essentialism as “a whole new way of doing less, but better, in every area of our lives.” He shares an example of a busy executive who considered each request for his time by first asking himself, “Is this the very most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?” Greg advises, “Only once we discern what is absolutely essential and eliminate everything else can we make our highest possible contribution toward the things that truly matter.”1
For some time now, I have been writing a book about the ways I feel God’s love and presence in my life. The book was intended to simply be a gift, a memoir, for my family and friends. But as I took steps to learn more about writing and publishing, I forgot my original purpose. I began to concern myself with building a larger following, finding ways to promote my writing, and reading every marketing resource that caught my attention. These tips and resources are helpful, but they took time and attention away from the writing itself! Soon my book project began to feel overwhelming and intimidating – no longer an outpouring of thoughtful reflections from my heart – and I stopped writing. Only when I finally returned to “the previous room” of my original intention, did I remember the “why I came in here” and found the joy of writing again.
The article, Benefits Of Pruning For Healthy Plant Growth | ABC Blog (abchomeandcommercial.com), tells us that “Proper pruning improves the health and beauty of plants, thereby increasing their lifespan and productivity.” Some of the benefits listed were improved plant health (by removing dead, diseased, damaged or dying branches and stubs), enhanced plant growth (when the main shoot is pruned, the growth of other shoots is encouraged), and enhanced beauty of a plant (pruning helps develop healthy flowers and colorful young shoots).
When we take the time to prune our nonessentials, we help foster our own healthier, stronger, and lovelier lives. As we pursue the goal of being who God created us to be, of doing what God created us to do, we might be offered many good paths to follow. For our healthy spiritual growth, we are wise to prune our choices to the best few, always making our first priority “to walk humbly with God.”
Our pruning can begin with a time for spiritual reflection, a time to prayerfully consider what is essential for our faithful living. We can then let those essentials guide our responses to each new invitation. We can ask ourselves, “Is this the best choice for now?” We can prune some of the helpful but less essential tasks by limiting our time with them (for example, I can concern myself with publishing for one hour each week). On the other hand, we can assign definite schedules for our essentials (I will write 500 words every Tuesday). Most of all, we can ask the Spirit to guide our ways and to reveal what is essential for living each day.
As we prune our nonessentials in this Season of New Growth, may we each find a greater clarity of purpose that will guide us to a life of simple – but meaningful – abundance.
1McKeown, Greg. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. New York: Currency, 2020. Print.
Photo credit: shrub-pruning.jpg (1256×835) (gardeningknowhow.com)