Second Cape’s cemetery sits across the street and borders Seaside. Early in ’18, after a gap of decades, I strolled again among the stones. We are all grateful for Jay’s mowing and basic tree maintenance there, but more remains to be done.

Sometimes to break from desk work I grab gloves, bow saw, and pruners, and stretch my weary bones. The first to go were the vines—poison ivy, of course, but also grape. “Grape? Why grape? Don’t you like that fruit?” I do. But our cemetery is not the place to grow it. The leafy vines kill the trees. After I climbed, cut, pulled, and groaned, down they came.

Trees were next. Some had grown on the graves, splitting headstones from bases. It was work to grub them out. I like trees, but the primary purpose of that plot of land is to provide a place of repose for people who have passed. So if trees were wrecking the graves, out they came. After the splitters, unwanted crowders had to go. The line that separates Second Cape from Seaside has become home to unwanted species that crowd and misshape the trees we want. Sassafras and wild cherry, for example. Though perfectly healthy, down they fell.

Could trees talk they might protest: “What are you doing? I am a healthy tree! I have grown here for years! What do you mean by cutting me down, and who gave you the right?” My motiva­tion is not hatred of trees, but desire to restore the cemetery to its primary purpose, and to improve the health, beauty, and symmetry of the trees that remain. Jesus spoke similarly: “I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it so that it will be even more fruitful.” Ouch! God prunes us. Cuts away perfectly good growth in our individual and church lives—even fruitful growth. The process is painful. We don’t understand it. Does he not love us, or appreciate the fruit we are bearing?

Of course he loves us. But he sees the big picture. He prunes to make us more fruitful, to restore us to our primary purpose. “See, I have appointed you this day to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Tearing down must often precede building up. Let us let God do his work among us.

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