It was another dismal day as I dragged myself up the sidewalk toward the hospital door. I tried desperately to smile at those who passed me, knowing they, too, were hurting. After all, cancer isn’t prejudiced. Every race, age and socio-economic group faces its horrifying grip. My mom (and best friend) was fighting for her life behind those doors, and today she would be told her odds for survival, and whether the new chemo was working. The last two treatments had not been successful, so this appointment was crucial.
I stared at the ground as I walked, my thoughts churning. Why hadn’t God intervened in mom’s illness? Doesn’t he know we’re hurting? Why does cancer have to exist? I’d never felt that God didn’t care, but I did have a lot of questions I wished he would answer.
Nearing the hospital entrance, my eyes were drawn to an ugly scene. The hospital was known for growing beautiful roses, but today the roses were anything but beautiful. Every rosebush had been cut! Not cut, mutilated! Each bush had been cut back so short it seemed they disappeared into the ground. My heart sank. “How could they do this? I know rose bushes must be trimmed, but how could they cut them down to nothing? Don’t they know how much joy these roses bring to hurting hearts that walk this path?” That’s when I heard it. The verse I had heard hundreds of times became suddenly clear:
“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.”
I took a picture of the bushes and rushed into the hospital. I knew I would revisit that verse from John 15:2 very soon.
My mom’s appointment brought news that was less than promising. She would be part of an experimental drug with few guarantees. I left the appointment feeling somewhat lifeless. I followed the same “lifeless” path out of the hospital that I had taken to get there. The rose bushes showed as much promise of bearing fruit as my mom’s new chemo drug. During the next few months, I passed those rose bushes every week, anticipating some sign of life. Month after month, there was none. I secretly hoped the rose bushes were not an indication of lifelessness in the treatment mom was receiving.
In the spring, we got news that mom’s new drug was working. Not only was it working, the doctor was amazed that mom’s cancer was affected so strongly by the treatment, especially for someone her age. Through tears, we told the doctor we weren’t surprised, and while we are grateful for doctors, we knew our prayers and the prayers of many of our friends and family had been heard. I wanted to run down the halls and shout “Thank you Jesus!” but I knew security might not understand. What I understood is that God HAD intervened, God did know we were hurting, and he met us right where we needed him.
Leaving the hospital that day, I walked the same path I had walked those previous months. Today was blooming day! Those once lifeless rose bushes were FILLED with blooms of every color imaginable! The smell was intoxicating and the view was unimaginable. Months before, nothing looked alive. Today, life was overflowing from those flower beds. I rushed back to the hospital lobby, grabbed mom and dad and led them down the path. “Today is blooming day!” I exclaimed. God used those rose bushes to remind me that he is busy “cutting off the dead stuff” so new life could be born in my mom!
God is the master Gardener, and he knows when to cut off the dead stuff in our lives. It may look ugly, but “blooming day” is coming. What is God pruning from your life today? What needs to be “cut off” so that new life can be born? Maybe it’s a relationship God is removing so he can bring others that cause you to bloom. Whether financial, emotional, relational, or physical, God longs to get rid of things that hold us back, weigh us down, and are not a part of his perfect will for us. Instead of being afraid when God picks up his pruning shears, welcome them as a sign that new life is on its way. Today could be your “blooming day.”
Shannon Perry is a conference speaker, author, recording artist, TV and Radio show host whose new book is entitled The Overlooked Generation: Parenting Teens and Tweens in a Complicated Culture. Prior to going into full-time ministry, Shannon taught for over 14 years in the public school system and holds a Master’s degree in Education and Counseling and is a Certified Instructor for Crisis Counseling and Parenting Classes. Her TV show, “Grace in High Heels” airs in over 72 million homes. Her website address is www.ShannonPerry.com.
Publication date: June 2, 2015