“He cuts off every branch of mine that does not produce fruit. And he trims and cleans every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.”—John 15:2 In the previous post, we looked at our Father as the Gardener. However, that is only half of the picture. As loving and gracious and good as our Father is, I have learned that He also wields the shears; that is, His love will not spare us from pain if we need to go through it in order to yield the maximum harvest.
While reading this verse, I did a little research on what the process of pruning really involved. According to what I found out, pruning is "the systematic, regular removal of anything that is dead, worthless, diseased or weak, so that the plant will expend its energy on those branches that are the strongest and most flower- or fruit-bearing." Contrary to what I first thought, pruning is a thought-out process of plant training, not a random or thoughtless hacking away of branches.
There are different times for pruning, depending on the plant; some are pruned before blooming season, some after. Some pruning needs to take place periodically, like removing dead blooms so that the plant will expend energy into making more flowers instead of turning to seed.
Pruning implements vary as well: they range from small clippers to long-handled cutters to saws. Depending on the need, the gardener will choose the best tool to use to accomplish his purpose. The older the plant, the more pruning it needs, so that its old growth will not hinder the development of the fruit. Younger plants are pruned less frequently, and for different reasons—mainly for shaping and stimulating growth.
Probably more than you wanted to hear, right? But the more I thought about this, the more I saw some really interesting parallels. If God is truly a loving Gardener who is watching out for our best interests and working for our good, then it makes sense that He will also get rid of all that is dead, worthless, diseased or weak in us. I might think it's important, but from His vantage point He sees things differently.
The good news is that He is very methodical and thoughtful in the process. His desire is not to bring us down or ruin us. He knows what we need, when we need it and the proper method for carrying it out. Sometimes He uses the small pruners to clip away little things that no longer are necessary. Sometimes He needs to use the long-handled cutters to get into deep places that are hard to reach. Some things we resist letting go of, so He sometimes needs to use the saw. Whatever He sees in our life that is fruitless, He will remove—so that we can bear more fruit. And the older we are, the more pruning there is.
Over the years, I have talked with a lot of moms who often tell me, "I don't see how you do all that you do!" The truth is, I don't either! But I do know this: God has had to take me through a season of serious pruning. He pruned away things that I loved doing, things that were helping provide for our family financially, and things that allowed me to connect with others. I confess that I balked over some of the things He pruned, but now I can see why. If I did not, I may still experience growth, but not the kind that He wanted in me.
One last thought: the pruning season does not last forever. While we will have regular rounds of pruning, each one will last only as long as He deems necessary. He is in total control. And when that season is over, we will finally be in a place where the fruit can really begin to grow.
Reflection thoughts: Are you in a pruning season right now? What do you think the Father is trying to prune away? How are you responding to that pruning? How does the perspective of more fruit help you to persevere and allow Him to prune away what is needed?
Part 3 of the series: John 15.