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Monday, June 20, 2011

Bonsai as spiritual lesson

Last Saturday my wife, daughter, and I visited the Denver Botanical Gardens to see the Bonsai show that the local Bonsai Society holds every Father's Day weekend. There were many beautiful and interesting trees on display.

At one point we watched a demonstration. One of the society members had previously purchased a pyrocanthus bush. It had an interesting central trunk, but the remainder of the three foot high bush was full of small branches growing in all directions.

As we watched, the gentleman explained how and why he pruned the branches away until about an hour later what was left resembled a small tree. As he worked, what came to my mind was John 15.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you
, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Now, I know that Jesus was speaking of grape vines not bonsai trees! Nevertheless, I think that their is a significant lesson to be learned. I also know that there are other

ways of obtaining bonsai materials such as growing materials from seed. Ignoring these, here's what I learned.

When the bonsai artist finds a wild specimen or a nursery item, he takes what is already there, twisted, gnarled, more or less growing as it wills. Then he looks at that specimen to find a tree that he can form. Each specimen is different, even material from the same species and area. So the bonsai artist cu
ts off what doesn't match what he thinks is best for that tree, and when he's done, he has the beginnings of a tree. Then comes the trimming of the roots, and then the longest part - training the tree so that the parts are in proportion and the tree is beautiful. The trimming and pruning may take a few hours initially. The training may take years.

So too, God takes us as we are, wild, gnarled, damaged, growing our own way. Then, he cuts. And cuts and cuts, and trims so that we begin to fit the form that he has in mind for us. Each of us is different. None of us will be identical. Some need more trimmin
g, some more training. When he's done, he has a human shaped as he wills, unique, a master piece of his working with our imperfections and sins. And the artist receives the praise.

Now the cutting, trimming, and training is not pleasant. While plants do not feel pain, I can imagine that if they could they would be protesting the entire pruning, trimming of roots and the boredom of the training.

But the end product is a tree of great beauty, a tribute to the artist.