I went to Epcot in Orlando last year, and I made a discovery. I like Bonsai trees. They had a display there of some of the most incredible looking Bonsai of various shapes and sizes, and it really inspired me. I thought to myself, “Self (that’s what I call myself), that would make a nice fun hobby, and it may even teach you some patience that you sorely lack”. So off I went on a road to discover the ancient Japanese art of Bonsai. I started by reading a lot and purchasing a couple of small already shaped trees to study. In my reading, I came across this quote from a very old quote (circa 970 AD) from a Japanese book talking about Bonsai:
“A tree that is left growing in its natural state is a crude thing. It is only when it is kept close to human beings who fashion it with loving care that its shape and style acquire the ability to move one.”
Fast forward to this last weekend, when I acquired a new “pre-bonsai specimen” for $5.98 from a local Lowes store, and believe me, it was a pretty ugly little bush. A specimen is any tree, planting, bush whatever that has the potential to be shaped by a Bonsai artist (that’s what I am now – a Bonsai artist), into a smaller, beautiful, and more compact plant that shows its real individual beauty. To create a Bonsai, you start by taking the specimen out of its large pot or digging it out of the ground and trimming out all the old big roots underneath that are determining its growth patterns up above. Then you study the growth of the tree aboveground and develop a vision of what it could be if it was pruned and shaped. As I set out to work on my new specimen, I was amazed at how painful it felt. I was literally chopping off roots, cutting off large branches and pruning out some of the green growth, and each cut seemed destructive as I watched the pieces hit the table under the plant. Now all the while I was doing this I was creating a vision in my mind of how it would look when I was done, but it still felt painful.
And then of course God hit me between the eyes with a big Bonsai bang! He has been doing the same thing with me for many years. In my youth I grew into a gangly, unruly plant that grew in many directions based upon all the external influences I was exposed to. When I came to know Him, I placed my life, limbs and leaves in His hands and he began to prune shape, wire and replant me into a vision only He has ever had for me. It was an awesome reflection. As I continued to prune that little plant from what was a specimen, I started looking at it in a much more positive light, and it was no longer painful, it was joyful. As I trimmed, shaped, repotted and handled it, I did it with an eye not for what it had been in all its ugliness, but for what it would become when yielded to the Master’s touch (okay – now I graduated to Bonsai Master!). So consider now the slightly edited old Japanese quote in this context:
“A life that is left growing in its natural state is a crude thing. It is only when it is yielded to the Master who fashions it with loving care that its shape and style acquire the ability to live life to its fullest and experience all God has to offer“.
We are all specimens in this life. We all know that if we yield to the Master’s touch we can become so much more, yet we still resist the shaping and pruning God tried to do. This little lesson I learned from the tree is going to help me as I fight that resistance. My prayer is for good pruning and shaping, but mostly for the ability to be yielding. “God please help me to yield”.
My little tree is a work in progress, just like I am. It is already worth so much more to me than the $5.98 I paid for it. I hope I will one day be worth more to God than what he paid for me!