We all remember the big moments in our lives -- your graduation, your first job, your wedding, the birth of your children -- but as a 17 year old kid, I received one of the biggest life lessons from my grandfather during a relatively small and truthfully, easily-forgotten moment in time.
Let me set the scene. It was the summer of 2000 and, after being out for a couple of nights partying. I had made my way back home for a quick shower and clean clothes. As I walked into my room, there on my bed was a half torn envelope and the weirdest curved knife I had ever seen.
I picked up the envelope. I recognized the school logo immediately and out dropped my report card. I already knew what it was going to look like and as expected there were D’s the whole way down. Knowing this, my heart only slightly skipped a beat as I read down the comments. Hey, since I’m being honest, I also knew I wouldn’t get into any trouble. My grandparents didn’t have the energy to raise their voices or follow through with any real discipline. I could easily just toss my report card aside and go back to packing my things up for my next adventure.
But something felt different this time. I couldn’t put my finger on the feeling, but fear and uncertainty started to kick in and then there was this knife. What was up with the knife?
I sprinted to my grandmother's room and asked "Grandma, why did you guys leave this knife on my bed?" She also looked puzzled. "Knife?" she responded. I handed her the small blade and as we both examined the clue, I shamefully handed her the second half of the mystery, my report card.
She began to laugh...and laugh...and laugh. Now I was about to get upset. “C’mon, Grandma!” I cried. She turned to me and as the laughter started to fade, tears began to fill her eyes. "Michael, this isn't just a knife. It’s a special tool that is used to cut grapes from the vine. Your grandfather is trying to tell you that with grades like this you're going to end up picking grapes."
Now, let me explain where my family comes from. Every single one of my grandparents followed the seasonal crops, picking fruit and vegetables up and down the west coast. They worked hard to provide better lives for their families and for their children to have it better than they did -- and don’t we all want this? And here I was just tossing my opportunity to the side, wasting the gift of my father’s and his father’s sacrifice.
Remembering the tears in my grandmother’s eyes, and thinking about this otherwise-small moment changed many things for me.
A few short days later I would enlist in the United States Army. I would remind myself of this moment as I experienced my first deployment, and struggled with the “I didn’t sign up for this” attitude.
I would remember this moment as I transitioned back into the civilian world and wrestled with thoughts about what my career might look like going forward.
I think about this moment today as I raise my boys and try to establish that same work ethic that my grandparents instilled in me.
My grandfather gave me a lesson in pruning that day. He took the time to show me how pruning stimulates growth, and how it is absolutely necessary to encourage the overall health of plants.
He challenged me that day to break old habits, to shift my focus towards a new direction. To grow up and think about how my actions would affect others, and how the way I was living my life needed to be cut away to ensure I would grow to be the man he was raising me to be.
There are moments in time when a small amount of pruning will challenge us to grow towards our full potential, to remove the dead and diseased areas in our lives and bear true fruit.
What ‘minor’ moments changed your life? What brief period of time that could have been forgotten shifted your perspective and forced you to make a hard turn? What areas can you be pruned in today that will allow for fruitfulness?
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. - John 15:2