Photographers crop their photos.
Writers edit their text.
Gardeners prune and weed.
What does God do?
Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of my favorite photographers, hated cropping, yet most photographers crop their images to make them better. In the photo above, part of a house shows on the left and a telephone pole shows on the right. If I crop those from the photo, d0 I get a better image?
Writers edit their text. Even as I write this, I am backspacing to erase, over-writing words with better(?) words, moving paragraphs around. See? The text is more polished, the ideas and expression are more transparent, the point easier to grasp!
Gardeners prune and weed because we want some things to grow and not others. We decide what is desirable and what is not. Better gardeners make better decisions, but all prune and weed. None hold memorial services over the corpses of unearthed weeds and pruned limbs. They are discarded without ceremony, just as editors discard words and photographers crop edges.
What does God do? If we so easily crop, edit, prune, and weed, why do we find it so hard to accept it when God crops his photograph, edits his writing, and prunes and weeds his garden?
Jesus uses the metaphor of the gardener who prunes the branches of grape vines so they will be more fruitful John 15:1-17. The same gardener cuts off and burns the branches that produce no fruit. The lesson is sobering. One way or another, we are going to be cut. To survive, we need to produce fruit, but even then we will be cut back to produce more.
The suggestion is that each of us is part of an image, a story, a garden. God’s photo has us in it. Does it need cropping? God’s story has us in it. Does it need editing? God’s vineyard has us in it. Does it need pruning? Weeding? Comfortable as we are with the process of cropping, editing, pruning, and weeding, how can we protest when God does the same? What is a poor weed to say?
What The Weed Says
If I understand what evangelical Christians say, they say, “Yes! We are weeds and deserve to be pulled from the garden, yet God loves us, so much that every sacrifice has been made to rescue us from the death we deserve.”
Here I’m thinking of an incident in Jesus’ ministry as told in Matthew 15:22-28. A Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus says that would not be right, and compares her to a dog. Still the woman persists, as we should persist. In effect, she admits she is a dog, but says that even dogs get to lick crumbs from the master’s table. She recognizes that even a bit of God’s mercy is enough, more than sufficient, and is, in fact, a feast. And so it is. Jesus heals her child.