One evening last spring, my husband and I drove our young daughters to a peach orchard near our home. It was our ward’s turn to prune the peach trees. We thought it would be a great opportunity to teach our children about service; plus, they could wear themselves out running through the orchard before bedtime! I was about to learn a significant gospel lesson that has stayed with me since.
We arrived at the orchard and gazed at the endless rows of peach trees. The workers passed out ladders and taught us about pruning. The excess peaches needed to be picked so the tree could support the fruit still left on the branches. One inch needed to be left between remaining peaches to allow each to grow bigger. Peaches also need to be pruned to allow sunlight to reach the twigs. New peach twigs can be killed in just one growing season by too much shading.
As I stood atop the ladder picking the hard, green peaches, I felt that I was wasting perfectly good peaches! I watched them fall to the ground and wondered if they would have flourished had I left them on the branch. It was then that I realized the lesson Heavenly Father was trying to teach me.
When we fill our lives with too many activities, no matter how good they are, we risk stunting our spiritual growth. So many wonderful opportunities are available to us, but at what cost? Just as the excess peaches needed to be pruned in order for the others to flourish, we need to wisely choose what activities will occupy our time so the ones we keep will blossom. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families” (Good, Better, Best, October 2007 General Conference).
Too many peaches will weaken the branch; I have felt this in my own life. When I overschedule myself, I feel discouraged and unable to accomplish all that is required of me. Unfortunately, my family suffers because I cannot give them the attention they deserve. The scriptures contain counsel on this matter. King Benjamin taught the Nephites, “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4: 27).
I have also realized just as too much shade can destroy the peach twigs, spiritual darkness can weaken my testimony. This happens when I neglect personal scripture study and prayer. Peach twigs need the light of the sun to help them grow; I need the light of the Son to help me grow. I know as I trust in the Lord, he will guide me to select the opportunities that strengthen my testimony and my family.