Roots, Branches, and Pruning
Pruning is my least favorite part of gardening. It’s probably my least favorite part of life, too. I love watching the growth of new branches and buds; one of my newest pastimes is guiding a vine as it climbs along our chain fence and supporting our bougainvillea bushes as they climb up to meet the vines on our grape arbor. But pruning is hard. We’ve planted some bonsai trees a few months ago, and it has been excruciating watching all the leaves fall from my plants during the cold months. With the warmer weather, my plants are coming to life with miniature leaves, but I know they will overextend themselves if I don’t carefully prune and re-direct each branch.
My friend told me that Bonsai trees should be a relaxing hobby for a busy doctor. I’m not so sure, with my decidedly un-green thumb and my disinclination for failure, but the little miniature trees are helping me reaffirm the importance of seasons for growth and regeneration, direction and intentionality, and the necessity of pruning. For much of my life, I have tried to find balance by pursuing achievements in a variety of dimensions. Happy to please others and excruciatingly unable to say no, the only types of pruning that usually happen in my life are the things that fall away because I am focused on those which demand my attention. But this is a new beginning in my life, in a sense. Never before have I had so much flexibility in my daily schedule and my potential impact areas.
I know I want to deeply invest in community development and public health. We have had some encouragement from villages where pastors are working alongside local leaders to bring hope and healing, and some discouragement when things are taking a long time to start or going in a self-focused direction. We want to help provide more mentorship to each area which has already received training, but we also recognize that there are at least five more areas, 130 or more churches, which are still desperate for their first trainings. We are discussing ways to root deeper and branch out with our existing training partners, and we are looking into ways to partner with new organizations and introduce more programs. These are exciting opportunities, but they are the type of developments which will take years to decades to show fruit.
In the meantime, it’s hard not to jump at every opportunity available to me on the easier days. I want to help in the clinic in the refugee camp, to spend more hours seeing patients and helping with the staff shortage in ABC clinic. I want to mentor younger doctors and develop myself professionally and develop training programs for others. Every day there seem to be more opportunities I could dive into, and each of them has potential for meaning and impact. I have been very hesitant about taking on any official commitments, I do limit my work to 8 hours a day, and I do try to make sure that I sleep well and exercise. I think the busy days are my favorites, the ones when I can jump from project to project and feel like I am making a difference. The slower days are harder – days of meeting and troubleshooting, planning, and most painful of all, saying no or sitting back and letting others go forward on a project without me.
Pruning will probably always be the hardest part for me. I hate the feeling of letting go of a branch, of choosing between good opportunities. But as I watch my little bonsai trees grow, it affirms just how dependent an excellent outcome is upon selectivity and intentionality. God give me the strength to say no to what is good but not best and the wisdom to know between these unprecedented opportunities.