Gideon tapped his pencil nervously on his clipboard. He chewed his lip as he reviewed his notes; the butterflies inside his stomach multiplied rapidly.
"Are you ready?" A commanding but gentle voice boomed.
Clearing his throat, Gideon lifted his head and answered, "Yes, my Lord, I am."
The voice softened. "Gideon, why do you sound so distressed? You know that I already know what you're going to say."
Gideon could hear the smile in his Lord's voice, but this only relaxed him a tiny bit. "You're not going to like what I have to say."
"Just tell me."
Trying to choose his words, Gideon stared at the clipboard as he shifted his weight from foot to foot. "My plants aren't growing like they should."
A heavy sigh hung in the air, causing the already great multitude of butterflies in Gideon's stomach to multiply again. The Lord's voice saddened as He asked, "What is the problem with your garden?"
"Well, my Lord," Gideon started, and then he gathered up all his nerve. He furrowed his brow and huffed, "I think you gave me bad plants…"
"Gideon," God interrupted, "I did not give you bad plants. What I gave you was perfect, but you know your plants have free will; they can make their own choices."
Frustration overcame Gideon and began to bubble out. Rolling his eyes, he barked, "Why, Lord, do you give them free will? My gardening job would be so much easier if you hadn't. "
Once more, God's voice boomed. "We've had this discussion before. I want them to choose to love Me. Let's move on. What's the problem with your garden?"
Putting his attitude in check, Gideon looked back down at his clipboard. Shaking his head, he replied, "Honestly, I just don't know. I water them and I feed them, but they just won't grow right. Some are covered with leaves, others have only one bloom—or maybe two, while others just won't seem to grow at all. I even have a few that are nothing more than very long stems instead of full bushes."
When Gideon finished, a deafening silence engulfed him as he patiently waited for an answer. "Have you pruned them?"
The question took Gideon aback. "Why, no Lord. I-I-I can't."
"Well, because, they wouldn't like that," a puzzled Gideon answered.
Softly, the Lord whispered, "I know, but it must be done."
Throwing his arms out, Gideon pleaded, "B-b-but, Lord that would hurt my plants. They would be devastated."
"The pain and devastation would only be temporary. Pruning forces them to focus their energies on growing in the direction that produces the brightest blossoms and best fruit as they become the plants they should be."
"I'm not sure I can, Lord. I don't want to cause them pain."
"Neither do I," God replied, "but it must be done in order to get a bumper crop."
Gideon hung his head and dropped his clipboard to his side. "Why don't they understand Your love? Why can't they see You the way I do?"
A loving, comforting, power wrapped itself around Gideon. "That, my dear, faithful servant, is why we prune them. So that they will know Me the way you do."
Filled with reassurance, Gideon lifted his downcast face to the brilliant light above him and stretched his lips into a pained smile. "Thank you, Lord. I must go. I have plants to prune."
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