On Caring: Lessons from an Unruly Bougainvillea

When we first moved into the parsonage, there was a Bougainvillea that had been neglected for years. Lack of skilled pruning made it misshapen and ugly. It also had lots of sharp thorns that were dangerous to little hands retrieving basketballs and toys. I talked to our landscaper about pulling it out of the ground and throwing it away. Once removed, we could replace it with three Christmas palms, which I imagined would be better.

The Bougainvillea Properly Trimmed

But the landscaper said, “Mark, the reason you don’t like it is because it has been neglected. Whoever lived here previously didn’t truly understand the plant and how to care for it in a way that brings out its natural beauty. Let me trim it, prune it, and work on it for awhile, and you decide to keep it.”

It’s Beautiful Flowers

I reluctantly agreed, and now, almost six years later, as I sit on my front porch to pray and drink coffee, the most beautiful thing I see are it’s bright purple flowers. As silly as it seems, I have deep gratitude for the beauty of this plant, which remained hidden until it was understood, pruned, and nurtured—until someone invested time and energy to wrestle with its unruly growth and bring out its natural best. I’m also grateful for all the birds it draws into it’s thick leaves and the songs they sing. It still has sharp thorns that occasionally inflict wounds, and it still requires work to keep it heathy and beautiful, but I’m so glad we didn’t uproot this bush and throw it away.

This got me thinking about how our lives are like this Bougainvillea, and how many of our relationships are like this Bougainvillea ….

Jesus said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)

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