Doing yard work over the past couple weeks has reminded me of the value of removing suckers—those little shoots that grow off the trunk of a tree or bush. They may not seem like a big deal, but not only will these suckers eventually affect the appearance of the tree, they’ll also affect the health of the other branches. The more suckers there are, the more nutrients are diverted from the others, affecting their growth and vitality.

Sometimes I feel like a tree with too many suckers. Perhaps you do too. There’s a wide range of things I want to learn and do and experience, but I don’t have time for them all. And the more I try to do simultaneously, the more my focus gets fragmented, which in turn affects the time I devote to the parts I care most about.

I’m not advocating we ought to always avoid adding new things to our lives. If we trimmed back every tree to the trunk, eliminating all branches or limbs that ever came off it, we wouldn’t have much of a tree. But this also doesn’t mean that everything that attempts to take root deserves its share of the nourishment of the tree. The key is knowing which ones to keep and which to remove.

There may be times where we stumble across something new in our lives, and we decide to give it some room to grow. And although we’re conscious of the cost of doing so, we decide we’re okay with this because of what it will add to the overall shape and texture of our lives. The danger is when this becomes the rule, rather than the exception, and we end up trying to do this with everything.

In horticulture, pruning is an essential art. In life, it is no less important. Letting a tree grow however it wants doesn’t guarantee it will be strong or beautiful. But under the watchful eye of someone who knows when and where to trim, this same tree can grow to become something even more healthy, strong, and beautiful than it would otherwise be.

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Question: What things in your life need to be trimmed back? Are there other areas that need more nourishment and attention?