修剪以產生「空間」──DEVELOPING MARGIN BY PRUNING UNFRUITFUL PURSUITS

By Jim Mathis

我當兩個本地商會的成員已經很多年了。我所遇到的人和做的事都非常鼓舞人心,對我個人和事業也都很有幫助。但是幾年前,我做了一個困難的決定-放棄會員資格,所以我能有更多的時間發展其他興趣。

35年來,我持續參與了一個名為歐弗蘭帕克市長祈禱早餐會(Overland Park Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast)的精彩活動。但是今年我決定讓其他人來繼續這個偉大的傳統。

在生活的其他方面我也減少各種活動。需要做決定的時候,我會依照這個原則來做判斷:「一個人不能做所有的事情。」事實上,如果你想要把事情做好,你需要做選擇。

拿「修剪」這字來形容這種生活方式是很貼切的。植物如果想要枝葉茂密長得好,修剪是必要的,例如葡萄藤和玫瑰花叢。有時我們會剪斷死掉的舊枝子,有時則會剪掉新長出來的,這樣整個藤蔓就會長得更好。

這個原則應用在人類的生活上,我會稱之為額外「空間」。我對額外空間的想法就是有足夠的空間來成長,工程師大概會稱它為多餘的產能。如果我們總是以最快的速度,全速前進的方式生活,遲早會崩潰,不然就是疲憊不堪、整個癱瘓,每件事都做得很差。

耶穌對他的門徒說:「 我是真葡萄樹,我父是栽培的人。凡屬我不結果子的枝子,他就剪去;凡結果子的,他就修理乾淨,使枝子結果子更多。」(約翰福音15章1-2節)。在這裡耶穌討論的是靈性的成長,但這個原則也適用在生活的各個領域,無論是工作場所、和家人的相處,或是我們的社區和社區活動上。

沒有人每一件事都做得很好。要專心做好一件事需要願意放棄或者至少減少我們對其他事物的參與。如果我們發現,自己喜歡做的事和追求已經達到了頂點,就是該做其他事情的時候了。正如傳道書3章1-8節告訴我們的那樣「凡事都有定期,天下萬務都有定時。…栽種有時,拔出所栽種的也有時;…拆毀有時,建造有時;…拋擲石頭有時,堆聚石頭有時;…撕裂有時,縫補有時;…」,

對於跟隨耶穌基督的人來說,要豐收還有另一個關鍵。「耶穌說:我是葡萄樹,你們是枝子。常在我裏面的,我也常在他裏面,這人就多結果子;因為離了我,你們就不能做甚麼。(約翰福音15章5節)。即便我們做的是好事,依然要依靠上帝的智慧、力量和方向,否則我們永遠不會得到期望的結果。

就像我在自己的生活中一直做「修剪」一樣,我已經決定,在不久的將來,我要追求上帝為我預備「最好的」。也就是說我會花更多時間寫作,因此在生活中我也需要更多的「空間」來研究、提出問題和思考。現在我正在寫一本書,也和我的寫作夥伴一起做另外一個專案。我相信這些努力都會「枝葉繁盛」。你現在是否也正在追求自己認為最能枝葉繁盛和豐收的事?

Jim Mathis是美國堪薩斯州歐弗蘭帕克攝影工作室的老闆,專門從事商業和戲劇肖像攝影,並經營著一所攝影學校。 他以前是密蘇里州堪薩斯城咖啡店的經理和CBMC的執行理事。

反省與問題討論

  1. 你認為一個人如何知道自己正在做對的事,或者同時做太多事?
  2. 正如本文作者所說的,你的生活或工作有多少「空間」?你積極參與了太多事以致於經常疲憊不堪嗎?如果是,你能做些甚麼來讓生活有更多「空間」?
  3. 你有沒有觀察或者實際修剪過植物?在你看來,修剪的目的是什麼?結果又是什麼?
  4. 當耶穌告訴他的門徒,每個人都應該被「修剪」時,你認為祂為什麼會這麼說?修剪能如何應用在日常生活中?你認為自己正在被「修剪」中,或者你過去有一些被「修剪」的經驗?分享你的答案。

備註:如果你手上有聖經,希望閱讀有更多和這個主題相關的信息,請參考下面的經文:
傳道書9章10節
9:10 凡你手所當做的事要盡力去做;因為在你所必去的陰間沒有工作,沒有謀算,沒有知識,也沒有智慧。
約翰福音5章5-16節
5:5 在那裏有一個人,病了三十八年。
5:6 耶穌看見他躺著,知道他病了許久,就問他說:「你要痊癒嗎?」
5:7 病人回答說:「先生,水動的時候,沒有人把我放在池子裏;我正去的時候,就有別人比我先下去。」
5:8 耶穌對他說:「起來,拿你的褥子走吧!」
5:9 那人立刻痊癒,就拿起褥子來走了。
5:10 那天是安息日,所以猶太人對那醫好的人說:「今天是安息日,你拿褥子是不可的。」
5:11 他卻回答說:「那使我痊癒的,對我說:『拿你的褥子走吧。』」
5:12 他們問他說:「對你說『拿褥子走』的是甚麼人?」
5:13 那醫好的人不知道是誰;因為那裏的人多,耶穌已經躲開了。
5:14 後來耶穌在殿裏遇見他,對他說:「你已經痊癒了,不要再犯罪,恐怕你遭遇的更加利害。」
5:15 那人就去告訴猶太人,使他痊癒的是耶穌。
5:16 所以猶太人逼迫耶穌,因為他在安息日做了這事。
加拉太書6章9-10節
6:9 我們行善,不可喪志;若不灰心,到了時候就要收成。
6:10 所以,有了機會就當向眾人行善,向信徒一家的人更當這樣。
以弗所書5章15-18節
5:15 你們要謹慎行事,不要像愚昧人,當像智慧人。
5:16 要愛惜光陰,因為現今的世代邪惡。
5:17 不要作糊塗人,要明白主的旨意如何。
5:18 不要醉酒,酒能使人放蕩;乃要被聖靈充滿。
歌羅西書4章5節
4:5 你們要愛惜光陰,用智慧與外人交往。
 


DEVELOPING ‘MARGIN’ BY PRUNING UNFRUITFUL PURSUITS

By Jim Mathis

For several years I was a member of two local chambers of commerce. The people I met and the activities we did were all very encouraging and helpful for me personally and for my business. A few years ago I made the difficult decision to drop my memberships in order to have more time for other interests.

For about 35 years I had been involved with a wonderful event called the Overland Park Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. This year I decided to step down and let others continue this great tradition as well.

I have taken steps in other areas of my life to reduce my activities using this general principle to guide my decisions: “You cannot do everything. In fact, you can only do a few things if you want to do them well.”

A good metaphor for this approach to everyday living is the pruning that is necessary for some plants to flourish. Examples are grapevines and rose bushes. Sometimes we cut off old dead branches, and other times we need to clip off new growth so the entire vine will become more fruitful. 

Applying that principle to human pursuits, we could call that creating “margin.” I think of margin as having room to grow. Engineers might call it excess capacity. If we are always running at our maximum, full-speed ahead, sooner or later we are either going to crash, wearing ourselves down to the point of exhaustion and total ineffectiveness, or we are going be doing a very poor job at everything.

Speaking to His disciples, Jesus made reference to this when He declared, “I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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 15:1-2). Jesus was talking specifically about spiritual growth, but the principle applies to every area of life, whether we are in the workplace, in our homes with our families, or engaged in activities in our neighborhoods and communities.

No one can be the best at everything. To excel at some things requires being willing to let go of, or at least reduce, our involvement in other things. And sometimes we discover that pursuits we once enjoyed and found useful have served their purpose and it is time to move on to other things. As Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to plant and a time to uproot…a time to tear down and a time to build…a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them…a time to tear and a time to mend.”

For those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ, there is another key to being fruitful. He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Even if we are engaged in doing good things, unless we are relying on God’s wisdom, strength and direction, we will never produce the results we expect.

As I have been doing this “pruning” in my own life, I have determined that for the near future I want to pursue the “best” things that God has for me. For now, this means I am going to spend more time writing, which requires having the margin in my life to research, asking questions, and of course, thinking. I am in the middle of one book and I am getting together with my co-writing partner to work on another project. I trust these will prove to be endeavors that “bear much fruit.” Are you pursuing the things you believe are most fruitful for you?

© 2019. Jim Mathis is the owner of a photography studio in Overland Park, Kansas, specializing in executive, commercial and theatrical portraits, and operates a school of photography. He formerly was executive director of CBMC in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

Reflection/Discussion Questions

  1. How do you think can a person determine whether he or she is engaged in doing the right things – or taking on too many things at one time?
  2. As Mr. Mathis defines it, how much “margin” do you have in your life – or your work? Do you find yourself so heavily involved and committed to many things that you often find yourself worn out and unfulfilled? If so, what steps might you take to create more margin in your life?
  3. Have you ever observed – or actually taken part in – pruning of a plant? What was the purpose of that, from what you could see? And what were the results?
  4. What do you think Jesus had in mind specifically when He told His followers about the need for each of them to be “pruned”? What does that look like in everyday life? Do you think you are presently being pruned – or have undergone some pruning in the past? Explain your answer.

NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages: Ecclesiastes 9:10; John 5:5-16; Galatians 6:9-10; Ephesians 5:15-18; Colossians 4:5

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