Friday, March 16, 2012

On gardening and Match Day

"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."  
~John 15:1-2

One of our community rose bushes.

Back in January, I was shocked to see that the large, lovely rose bushes outside our community office had been reduced to pathetic-looking stubs.  As I am not educated in the ways of gardening, I assumed that this was a travesty.  I found out later, from our office manager, that the rose bush branches had been intentionally hacked off.  "Oh, that?" He said, "we just had them pruned so that they'll blossom this year.  Just wait, you'll see, they will be beautiful come springtime."

Three weeks ago, February 22nd, was a difficult day in my life.  That Wednesday was the deadline for all residency applicant rank lists to be submitted for the medical residency Match.  The deadline came and went: I chose not to submit my list.  It was not that I had fallen out of love with medicine.  In fact, after a long season of interviewing, months of prayer and deliberation, I was excited for the next step of my training, thrilled to serve others as a physician.  But, as I reflected on what I would miss with my children, in our family life, moments that I couldn't get back, responsibilities that would have to be delegated, I was faced with an unshakable, interior disquiet.  My restlessness increased as I realized that I couldn't be a resident and, at the same time, the kind of wife and mother that I want to be.  I wanted to have both medicine and motherhood my way, and I couldn't; not right now, anyway.  For now, it was time to make a choice.  Regardless of the decision, my choice would result in giving up something that I loved, and that would be painful.

So on the day of the deadline, as I passed by those stubby rose bushes on my way to get our mail, my eyes filled with tears.  I realized that my life, too, was being pruned in a major way.  The Master Gardener had entered the garden of my life with giant loppers, and as much as I wanted to trust His expertise, I resented feeling just as naked as the stubby plants before me.  

In his book, God's Power to Change Your Life, author Rick Warren puts it this way:
"Professional pruners will tell you that most people are too timid when it comes to pruning.  I used to think that pruning was going in and gently cutting off the little dead pieces.  Not so.  The live stuff needs to go too - branches, leaves, and flowers.... 
....Here is my point: most of us think that when God prunes us, he cuts off the sinful and the superficial, the deadwood in our lives.  He does do that, but he also cuts off stuff that is alive and successful: a business that is going great, a satisfying relationship, good health.  Some of that may get whacked off for greater fruitfulness.  It is not just deadwood that goes.  God often cuts back good things too, in order to make us healthier.  It is not always pleasant, but pruning is absolutely essential for spiritual growth.  It is not optional.  Remember, God is glorified when we bear "much fruit" (John 15:8), and that requires pruning.  We must remember that the loppers are in the hands of our loving God.  He knows what he is doing, and he wants the best for us.  If you are a Christian, you are going to be pruned.  Count on it."  ~From God's Power to Change Your Life, by Rick Warren

Today is Match Day, the day when residency assignments for the coming year are revealed.  I anticipated for months that today would be a big day for me and my family, and I suppose that it is, but not in the way I expected.  Today is a big day because of what is not happening for me, so that so much more can happen for us.

In the weeks since withdrawing from the Match, I have been reminded of how great God's plan is for our lives.  He promises in Jeremiah 29:11:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, 
"plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 

Do I trust God for this?  I am trying.  In the days following my decision, I wrestled with real sadness and feelings of regret.  T wisely pointed me to the following short film entitled, "My Garden," by former pastor Ed Dobson.  The film describes the transformation of his life since the disease ALS ended his formal pastoral ministry.   His story helped me understand myself better.

As each of us walks the road of life, our path is often rough and dark.  God promises to make the road before us both light and smooth (Isaiah 42:16).  I don't know what is ahead, but I know that God's good plans for me are there.  I trust that a loving God is holding the shears that just pruned residency from the next year my life.  

The kids and I went to get the mail today.  We passed by the rose bushes.  I would not have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes: the stubby bushes are covered with leaves and buds.

I, too, now pruned, am ready to bloom.


Jennifer Lee said...

Oh Betsy, you have brought tears to my eyes with this as I imagine how hard this day is for you and I so sympathize with the pain of giving up work that you love in order to do this season of your family's life the best way you know how. I admire you so much and trust God will use you in amazing ways and in ways you couldn't have foreseen. (Another thought: I recently spoke w/ a friend from law school who is a partner now and we were marveling at the dearth of PT/flex options in our field, and she mentioned medicine as seeming, counterintuitively, better for that -- so who knows, one day, maybe -- ) With love, and gratitude for the year we spent working together, Jennifer

A said...

We LOVE you, Queen B!

Luke and Jen said...

I've been waiting to find out what your decision was. As a resident who still enjoys medicine but loves her children more, I can totally imagine how hard this decision was. This doesn't mean you won't be able to serve others... it just will look different now!

SnoWhite said...

While I have no idea what this med school road is like, dear friend, I have been in a similar place. Feeling the call to move away at just the point in life where God was doing wonderful things here and crying tears - good tears, but painful tears, knowing that to get where He wanted me to be, He needed to prune even the good things. Sitting eight years on the other side of that decision, even though it hasn't all been roses along the way, I am in awe of what He did when I had the courage to step out and say yes. I can't wait to see that similar testimony in your life. I'm confident that He who began a great work in you will carry it out to completion.

lotsofjoyfulnoise said...

Beautiful and amazing (both you and this post...) Hugs! K

Anonymous said...

Dear B,
I know this decision was a prayerful one and that it will bless you in ways you cannot now know. God is indeed full of surprises. Stay tuned!
Love, Bette

Anonymous said...

B, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I know that you are going to bloom! I have felt privileged to share a small part of your journey these last few months. Thank you for your transparency and for letting me help with the kids and get to know and love you and them more. Your testimony is a great reminder to me that God's pruning of good things will allow more fruit. I love you! Joan