This entry is part of an occasional series in which metaphorical ideas find their way onto your screen. Its roots are simple: When you look with fresh eyes, there may be life lessons to find in just about anything. Today: Unraveling or pruning?
It’s tempting to think that life as we know it is unraveling. Current events seem to warrant that assumption: Russia’s war on Ukraine (and on the existing world order); a pandemic that keeps reinventing itself; the proliferation of anger-addicted political leaders; a growing number of failed states around the world; the looming prospect of widespread famine and the disastrous effects of global warming. Bit by bit, things seem to be coming apart.
That same temptation could shift over to my thinking about this stage in life. Unraveling is what happens as we age, right? My answer: No, not really! That metaphor doesn’t readily apply to living things. We’re organic, animated and renewable, so we don’t come apart like old sweaters, social systems or political parties.
Perhaps a better way to describe any diminishment we might experience is to think of older adulthood as a time of pruning. Sloughing off what isn’t necessary. Trimming, condensing or shortening. Tightening our belts, focusing our priorities, thinning down our lifestyles so they’re manageable. The metaphor makes sense because it applies only to who or what can grow. (E.g., a pruned apple tree produces more apples.)
Because I’m very much alive—a daily gift of God—I can think of pruning as a way to conserve energy, reduce waste and induce newness. Lopping off what’s unnecessary can take burdensome weight off my body and soul. What’s next can compensate for what’s already happened. I can be nimble—able to accept new challenges, find new joys and nurture what’s newly important.
“Pruned and pruning” feels more hopeful than considering aging as an unavoidable unraveling. I can trust my lively, loving God to stay alongside as I can continue to accomplish God’s will for the world.
That thought also has its own allure!
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