Thorns, Teens, and Truth

When we first moved in, the orchard drew me. I was so excited to have fruit trees of various kinds; apples, pears, plums, cherries. What I didn’t realize was the type of plum trees we had.

As you can see, when we moved in the plum trees hadn’t been pruned or cared for in years. They were so dense, you couldn’t see through them and there was no way you could get to the branches to pick fruit. Once we got close to them or tried to climb them we realized they were covered in thorns, making it impossible to get any plums!

We started to cut and trim and prune. We made some serious progress and hoped those trees would thrive and give us some lovely plums. Sadly, they had been neglected so long they just weren’t healthy anymore.

A little research revealed they are known as “Old American”. Those awful thorns every two inches up every branch become the new branches…every year! Imagine the amount of pruning and cutting it would take to keep those under control every year. Hundreds of new branches would grow each summer, filling in those trees all too quickly. And each new branch came with its own set of thorns.

A couple years later and we have just watched those trees slowly die and hardly produce any fruit. The plums there were, were so tiny and tart they were hard to enjoy. These were definitely not the plum trees I had envisioned in my orchard.

Recently, with the help of friends, we chopped all those plum trees down! I was so overjoyed watching them fall! I was even more overjoyed when I threw the last branch into the fire and watched it burn. No more thorns and unhealthy trees! Now I have space to plant what I want, trees we can enjoy with fruit we can enjoy!

As I watched these thorn covered branches burn, I thought about the thorns and fruit in my own life. There have been so many thorns revealed to me lately and I truly feel like I’ve been in a fire. It’s as if God is showing them to me and then saying, “Okay, we need to burn those off now”. There’s no easy, comfortable way to accomplish it. Unfortunately we have to go through the fire to learn and remove those thorns.

The fire in my life right now is raising young adults. Boy, do my thorns show when I get pushed by these young people in my house. Those thorns are my pride, my harshness, my anger, my frustration, my feelings of failure. They aren’t pretty and they stab fiercely in every direction. That fire isn’t easy, nor does it feel good, and when I focus only on the present and on the situations with these young adults, I can’t stand the fire. All I want is out! I don’t want to deal with emotional outbursts and their feelings of being completely overwhelmed by life. I don’t want to face my feelings of being a failure at parenting and teaching.

But that’s not where my focus should be. Just like it’s taken us over three years to get to the point of cutting down those plum trees because they weren’t bearing good fruit, it takes time to see what the fruit will be. We can’t just look at the present situation. We can’t just focus on here and now. It does look hopeless and frustrating then.

But, there is always hope. There can always be good fruit in the end. That’s where my focus has to be. Not right now, but down the line. There’s always the anticipation of what may come. Even now, as I see my apple, pear, and cherry trees blooming, I anticipate good fruit in the fall. But am I going to just wait around and see if it might happen?

No! I’m going to put in the hard work that I can, trusting the process. Already, I spent a few days pruning those trees. I’m going to give them nutrients throughout the summer. I’m going to protect them from pests. I’m going to check up on them as the days turn hot. And, as I work, I will hope.

Lately, my mantra with my teens has been this: Never give up and Never stop speaking the truth. Never give up and Never stop speaking the truth. Even when it seems the fire is going to burn you up into ash, even when it seems as if those young adults are nothing more than a brick wall you are trying to talk to, even when it seems as if there will never be good fruit…

Never give up. Never stop speaking the truth.

There is always hope, through and after the fire. I know that even though it’s painful, I want to be a tree without thorns that bears good fruit. I guess if it takes three teens now and seven more later, I’ll withstand it. I’ll keep hoping. I’ll never give up. I’ll never stop speaking the truth.

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