The tree trimmers finally showed up. I’d been nervously waiting for them, both looking forward to them pruning my trees and also terrified of what the outcome might be. I’d known for a long time that the trees needed to be trimmed, but a part of me loved the wild “jungle” growth, and I’d waited way too long before calling them.

They arrived this morning, and I had to keep myself from constantly running outside and telling them how to do their job. I’ve seen other trimmers before. I’ve seen the ugly devastation of hacked-off trees where they had taken a chainsaw and cut the large branches, leaving not much more than an angular trunk that takes years to regain its beauty.

But each time I looked out this morning, I was pleasantly surprised. I watched them take off the small branches that had grown along the far edges of the tree. Then they used the chainsaw to cut off a couple of the larger branches, but only those that were no longer healthy. They worked all morning on one tree, like careful surgeons extricating the cancer that was sapping strength from it.

It’s a little like the work of the heart. It’s terrifying to admit fault, to realize that deep changes sometimes need to take place. It takes courage to use a saw on the branches of our personal problems and to begin cutting. It takes faith to ask God to cut away those things we have to let go of that are hindering our growth, spiritual health, and happiness. It’s a painful process, hearing the buzz of the proverbial chainsaw, and my heart aches.

It’s during these times of vulnerability, of opening up and facing our weaknesses, that we need to be careful not to just begin hacking off everything about us, zealously chopping away and destroying even those things that are healthy and beautiful.

That’s when we need the gentle hands of the surgeon, who is careful not to destroy the healthy parts of the body as he operates. We need the patient hands of the tree trimmers like those I hired today, taking time to cut only the branches that are overgrown or dead and dangerous, and leaving the large, beautiful branches that will provide shade in the summertime. This patient, careful pruning enables the tree to come back to life in spring, stronger in its individuality and lovelier and more vibrant than ever.