My dad had been trying to convince me for weeks that I would have to thin out my green bean plants if I wanted them to be productive. And I did want them to . . . be productive, that is. Thinning them out was another matter altogether. How would I pick among the healthy bean plants which ones would have to go and which ones would stay?

“So you really think six bean plants around each stake is too much?” I asked one last time recently. I have never successfully grown Kentucky Wonder pole beans, but my dad has many times. I decided to trust him.

“Yeah, you probably only need three plants around each stake or they will choke each other out,” he said.

I felt a little choked up myself. This is not my first year to garden, but this is the first year of gardening in my new raised beds that I made myself. My dad and I were planning to build them together, but after his heart surgery back in February, we decided he should just play the role of consultant.

So by myself, I bought six 2x8x10 pieces of lumber, 16 L brackets, and a box of nails and constructed two 4×8 beds in the front yard. Then, I bought 1 and a fifth tons of organic dirt, peat, and composted manure and wheelbarrowed it, 120 pounds at a time, out to the little boxes. Needless to say, I have a vested interest in my garden this year. Every seed I planted in that dirt has a little of my sweat and tears in it. Pulling even a dozen spare bean plants up would only be done after careful deliberation.

My dad was right, of course. And the decision about which of the healthy plants to pull ended up being easy–I relied on symmetry and just pulled every other one so that they would evenly surround the four poles. After the thinning and staking, which my dad helped me with this weekend, my beans are thriving, even better than before.

I suspected that would be the case. Not only is my dad usually right, but this lesson holds true beyond the garden.

Recently, I’ve noticed that my otherwise healthy life is starting to get choked out by too many plants around the stake. It’s all good stuff–Bible studies, prayer meetings, family gatherings, a television show or two, overtime at work, exercising at the gym, even gardening. And it’s overwhelming to think of what might have to go. But something will, or my life will become unproductive and too busy to sit with Jesus.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to thin out my life, and it probably won’t be the last. And you know, when it actually comes time to get rid of some things, symmetry usually does the trick there, too. Leaving my life thick in some areas and lean in others is not wise caretaking.

Come mid-July, I’m looking forward to picking a big batch of green beans out of the garden. And I’m also looking forward to having the unhurried time to sit and snap them and cook them without feeling overwhelmed by my life.

First, I’ve got some pulling to do.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown . . .The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” — Matthew 13:3-8, 22-23