The Popcorn Tree

by Andy Wood on September 5, 2008

in Enlarging Your Capacity, LV Cycle, Turning Points

The LifeVesting Cycle

1. Allocate your resources.
2. Explore the possibilities.
3. Follow your passion
4. Execute your plan.
5. Protect your investment.

6. Enlarge your capacity

When I was still a kid, my dad built a flower box for my mom. We got some nice, rich soil from a place behind our house where we had a lot of mulch and trees. She planted some flowers in the box, and we were excited to see what would come out.

What came out was something that at first looked like a weed. But this was no weed. It was a tree. A popcorn tree, my dad said.

I was entranced. It was my first sense of fatherhood and stewardship, all rolled into one.

If you aren’t familiar with them, popcorn trees, or Chinese tallows, grow in moist climates. They grow rapidly, and can get pretty big. They make great shade and ornamental trees, and in the fall, their seeds split open to appear like popcorn.

I watched this little tree take off, and soon we transplanted it from the flower box to the front yard. We got more and more into trees, and soon found four more popcorn trees – then some redbuds and dogwoods. I had this sense of pride and ownership in all of them, but none more than the original – the queen of the yard – as she quickly grew taller than the eaves of our house.

Then one day the unthinkable happened. I came up the street to my house, and found the most horrific sight. Someone (my dad) had taken shears and whacked my tree off at about six feet. The queen of the yard now had a crew cut.

It was ugly.

Shameful.

Hideous.

“Pruning,” he called it.

“Disaster” was what I called it.

Of course, my dad knew a whole lot more about trees and all things agricultural than I ever will. (I once asked him, “How’d you get so smart?” He said, “I keep my ears open and my mouth shut.”)

Anyway, the queen began to reshape. To spread. To grow, not just taller, but shapelier, even more beautiful.

This life lesson became even more applicable to me as I grew spiritually.

“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23).

What do you suppose God wants to do with that believer whose heart produces a “30 times return?” Here’s one answer from another source:

“He lops off every branch that doesn’t produce. And he prunes those branches that bear fruit for even larger crops” (John 15:2).

And in case you’re wondering what Jesus is getting at here, the writer of Hebrews refers to this as discipline, that at first seems sorrowful, but afterwards “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).

Pruning looks painful to the tree or vine. It’s painful to you and me, too, when God takes us through the pruning process. Like the tree or vine, pruning shows up as temporary setbacks. Missing pieces. Brutal course corrections. Separation. Redirection.

At first pruning appears to reverse the plant’s growth. But the end result is graceful, powerful, and beautiful. It works for LifeVestors, too. God is still in the process of writing your life story. And in that process, he is deepening your capacity to love, lengthening your capacity to endure, and enlarging your capacity to receive.

Painful? No doubt about it. But purposeful. God wants to increase your fruitfulness, or your success so far. He wants to channel your growth in specific areas. He wants to prepare you for future, life-defining hardships. And He wants to fit you into the larger plan of His kingdom. Yes, it’s painful. But it’s worth it in the long run. And the long run is what LifeVesting is all about.

Jesus had more to say about pruning and fruitfulness and abiding in Him in John 15. How do we make the most of our pruning seasons?

1. Recognize God’s sovereignty and finished work
Jesus said that they were already clean – a play on words in Greek that means they were already pruned – through the word he had spoken to them. Was it their idea? No. Was it their work? No. It was God’s. Their responsibility was to trust Him to continue to act on their behalf.

2. Stay open to spoken truth
“The word I have spoken to you” to which Jesus referred was actually a variety of things – rebuke, teaching, encouragement, command, warning. What made these disciples different was that they had received it. Not everything someone says to you is profitable or true. But everything that IS true should be received, whether it feels good or not. And everything Jesus said becomes eternal truth to build and shape your life.

3. Stay connected to your source of life
LifeVesting isn’t about investing your life – it’s about investing His! The temptation during the pruning seasons is to quit, to take matters into your own hands, to try to bear your own fruit. Jesus said that the key to fruitfulness wasn’t trying harder, but abiding faithfully.

If you’re ever tooling around Mobile, Alabama, see if you can find Almeda court. You’ll find our old house there, and you won’t have any trouble recognizing which one it is. It’s the one with the forest in the yard.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tree Newt September 5, 2008 at 8:36 pm

Andy, I have felt the pruning shears recently. Not always fun when the cutting is done, but the end result is always “Wow! I never knew that was in there!” Great post, as always.

Tree Newts last blog post..Carpe Diem

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