Growing up my parents owned a nursery and landscaping company. Most of my early childhood memories involve dirt. I learned to plant and water when I was just barely big enough to hold a hose. As I got older I learned to lay sod, fertilize plants, graft and prune. I was never very good at the pruning. My mom and I worked together. She would give me a quick lesson on each variety of plant and how it should be pruned, then she’d hand me pruning shears and turn me loose. As I would make my way down the row she would follow right behind me re-pruning every plant I pruned. No matter how many branches I cut away it was never enough for her.
If a branch had a flower or bud on it I’d leave it. If a plant started to look too sparse I’d move on. But not mom. No, she whacked away with a vengeance.
Every year it was the same. I would cut too little and she would come behind and cut mercilessly. Every year I questioned her. Begged her not to completely strip the plants back so severely. Every year she would tell me “Just wait. You’ll see. Next spring this plant will be so much bigger and do much stronger”. I couldn’t fathom how her destruction would bring forth new life.
My pruning made sense to me. I cut off the dead and dying branches so the healthy branches could have room to grow. Mom’s pruning didn’t make sense at all. It was just too brutal.
John 15 say that Jesus is the vine and we are the branches and that every branch that doesn’t produce fruit will be cut off and thrown into the fire. It doesn’t say every dead or dying branch will be cut off but every branch that doesn’t produce much fruit. I learned through years of experience that a plant can have many branches that look strong and healthy but don’t produce fruit. A plant can also have many branches that produce little fruit that when pruned yield a great harvest.
Lately I feel like God has been pruning me. And He prunes much more like my mom than me. I’ve been questioning Him a lot lately about the branches He’s cutting off. It seems like He has no intention of stopping until there is nothing left.
And maybe that is His goal.
I am the vine. You are the branches.
If God removes every branch then the only thing that remains is Christ. And isn’t that the desire of my heart? For me to decrease and Christ to increase?
So why do we fight so hard to hold on to that which doesn’t produce fruit? To that which covers up Christ? To that which appears healthy but is actually barren?
Is it fear? Fear of being stripped bare?
Is it pride? A desire to be seen and admired?
Is it comfort? A longing to keep that which is familiar?
Or is it simply the belief that the master Gardner can’t be trusted to shape our hearts?
It’s easy to trust the Gardner in the growing season when He holds a watering can. But in the latent season when pruning shears fill His hands? It’s harder to trust then.
And that’s another thing about pruning. It takes place during the dormant season when branches are stripped bare of leaves. When weather conditions are harsh and plants aren’t growing. Why is it that pruning seems to take place when the plant is most vulnerable?
Ideally for most plants pruning takes place right before the growing season, leaving fresh wounds exposed for only a short amount of time before new life springs forth.
And it’s the same for us.
The season of pruning proceeds a season of rapid growth. The wounds will heal in short time as they are sealed by new life. And the sparseness of our hearts will be covered over with a fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God.
Then, and only then, will we produce fruit. Much fruit.
And you will be called Oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. Isa. 61: 3