The whine of the chainsaw penetrated Erika’s dream. She stirred and rolled over, then raised her head to glance at the bedside clock.
It seemed impossible that half the morning had gone – but then, what reason did she have to wake?
She pulled the blankets higher and snuggled beneath them. Perhaps if she covered her head she could block out the sound. Fifteen minutes later she realised it was useless and pushed the covers back with a sigh. Reaching for the pillows she’d thrown on the floor the previous night, she placed them against the backrest and wriggled upright in the bed. Lifting her right knee that was swollen to twice its normal size, she rearranged the pillow that had supported it during the night.
From her upright vantage point she could see her old neighbour cutting away at the trees that divided their properties. She edged even higher in the bed. Surely he wasn’t cutting them down?
The trees had stood for almost fifty years. As a little girl she had spent afternoons in the Richardson kitchen, eating Mrs Richardson’s fresh baking, sipping weak tea and listening as time and again Mr Richardson told how he’d planted the trees on their first wedding anniversary - almost twenty-five years before Erika had been born. They’d only been thin and tiny then, but each year they had grown and flourished as he’d nurtured and cared for each one.
Each Spring of her life she had thrilled to see the trees outside her bedroom window, clothed in pink and white, their branches reaching heavenward. Months later they would be laden with fruit: apples, plums, nectarines, pears, and apricots and Mrs Richardson would spend hours preserving the fruit her husband had picked. There would always be baskets of fruit for Erika’s family too and Erika reflected that no store-bought fruit could reproduce the fragrance and taste of fruit sun-ripened in Mr Richardson’s orchard.
The first year that Erika had observed Mr Richardson pruning his trees she had run home crying. Her father had patiently explained to her that to bear fruit the trees needed to be pruned, but it wasn’t until the following spring when the trees burst into bloom again that she believed.
And now he appeared to be cutting them down. Erika wanted to run to the window and scream for him to stop, but she couldn’t even swing her legs out of bed of her own accord. The reminder was more destructive than any chainsaw.
Lord, why did you allow this to happen? she railed yet again. It was meant to be such a simple operation but then things went wrong and I’ve been confined to bed for two months now. I’m meant to be organizing a retreat for the ladies Bible study group, and learning the music for the Sunday School play and spending more time with the teenage girls at Church. Then there’s the short-term mission trip in a few months that I want to go on. I really don’t have time to be laid up in bed right now. Couldn’t you do something about it? And quickly please.
Catching sight of the Bible her sister had placed on the bedside table, Erika sighed and reached for it. It had been weeks since she’d sought its pages. Her eyes lighted on the passage for the 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.*
She closed her eyes. Oh Lord, is that what You’re doing?
She opened her eyes as her sister entered the room.
“Oh good, you’re awake. Mr Richardson was by earlier to see how you’re doing. He was worried that the chainsaw would disturb you but I told him you could sleep through just about anything.” Sara-Linda opened the window, leaned out and waved, before turning back. “Looks as if he’s almost done.”
“It will be so different without the trees.”
Sara-Linda looked at her strangely. “He’s just pruning them like he does every year. But he’s trying out a new method using a chainsaw. Surely you didn’t think he’d cut them down? He cares for them as if they were his children. You know that.”
Yes she did know.
Erika pressed the pillow against her mouth to keep from laughing. Lord, I’ve been so blind!
*John 15:1-2 NIV
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