Covid 19 has swept through our world and our lives like a pruning knife, cutting out large portions of things we thought we couldn’t live without. Pruning doesn’t just trim away the excess and the dead; it gouges to the heart of the flourishing, a harsh process designed to bring forth future abundance. But for now, our branches are bare. We feel stripped.
Financial stress has caused many of us to cut out the extraneous stuff from our lives. We are staying closer to home. We are refraining from purchasing the latest technology. We are simplifying our lives and our possessions.
Could it be that this great pruning could result in better ways of living? Could it temper our consumer mentality? Could it bring back gratitude? Could it give us an appreciation for the simple graces of life that used to be buried under our ambition, our competition and our stuff?
There is no question that evil is on the rise in our society. Some of us are angry at the pruning and have let the pain stir in us things unholy and dark. Some of us are becoming frightfully self-righteous. We are flinging down our gauntlets of race and masks and politics, parading our experts in front of each other on social media, scrambling for our footholds on the mountain of public opinion.We accuse each other of being sheep while we glare at each other across our respective fences.
We are taking advantage instead of taking care.
But what if we have been given this gift of time and opportunity to humble ourselves and just listen to each other? So much of our angst, as both a society and individuals, comes from just not being heard. From not feeling seen. We don’t have to agree with someone to offer them the gift of listening. I think of my own life, how few people I’ve known who have ever cared to listen. How few I’ve felt safe enough with to open my heart.
Maybe instead of adding back into our lives more programs and activities, we commit to laying down our pride, putting aside our agendas and turning off our devices, and determine to start seeing and hearing each other. Let’s look our spouse in the eyes when they speak. Let’s listen to the fears underneath the angry words of our children. Let’s allow the elderly the dignity of telling their stories one more time. Let’s choose to move toward a person who is different from us instead of turning to the familiarity of our tribe.
Let’s be quiet for 15 minutes with our Bibles open and listen to God’s still, small voice. Let’s set aside our prayer requests and to-do lists and offer ourselves to Him as agents of love and hope to this angry world.
Pruning’s purpose is abundance; a lushness of life and sweetness of fruit that is impossible without the painful cutting of the knife to make room for new growth. Perhaps it’s time to turn from concentrating on our losses to counting our blessings. We can choose to cultivate meaningful, grace-filled lives right here and right now instead of waiting for a future that may never arrive.
Just as we have let go of our plans and our stuff, let’s also let go of our anger and our self-focus. Now is our chance to open our hands, open our hearts and open our calendars to holy possibilities. This is our invitation to lean into the pain and loss with a sacred desire to cultivate fruit that will last, whose sweetness will linger in the lives of others long after we are gone.