“I am the true 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)
When Joyce Meyer taught on this passage she pointed to the fact that we all will get pruned whether we bear fruit or not. The Lord is in the shaping business. Like a great gardener He knows what needs to be cut off to stop dead, diseased, unhealthy, or out-of-control growth. He also knows how to prune back a healthy, fruitful branch and make it more productive in the following season.
I had a real life example of this when I looked out my upstairs window to notice for the third year two trees in our yard that looked like they might be dying. Since they were on the property line I was afraid of them being blown down into my neighbor’s yard, but at the same time I knew from past experience that it would probably cost more than $1,000 a tree to have them removed. For three years I tried to see them as only “slightly dying or mostly dead, but not completely dead”…..don’t laugh!! Finally, when I took my husband out to see them from another angle he convinced me that they had to come down.
We called a tree company and when the inspector came he agreed that the two trees needed to come down, then he began to look at the wonderful healthy tree in our back yard and asked if we would like to have it trimmed. As we talked we saw that there were a couple of healthy limbs that stretched out over our roof. Since this was a silver maple tree he said that it would be best to trim them off as silver maples, sometimes called soft maples, are notorious for dropping their limbs – no surprise to me as we pick up limbs all year long from this tree. He also said that when it became heavy with wet leaves the limb could pull off onto our roof, not only causing damage to our roof but probably splitting its healthy tree trunk in the process. That would be a shame as this is the only tree in our backyard to give us any shade at all. We reluctantly agreed. Then we looked at the tree in our front yard near our electric line. We’d already had a limb from this one fall down and cause damage to our roof so we agreed to trim off the suspicious and dead limbs from this tree also.
This got me to thinking about the Lord and this passage in John that speaks of cutting off (pruning) the branches in us. It seems to say that as we grow and are connected to our life source, Jesus, we need to be willing to let the gardener, God the Father, come along and prune our branches. We need to do this without argument because He is the gardener and He knows how to best grow us into His people. I have to say that when the Lord comes to me and says, “I am cutting this off of you and it is for your own good,” I tend to not be that spiritual. I often question Him about His choice of branch, saying, “But Lord, it’s not completely dead yet. Just let me try to revive it again.” I know that you are thinking, “Well, that is pretty silly. If the Lord says it’s got to go, that it is dead and could hurt me or someone else, I should quickly submit and go along with it.” But how do you feel when the shoe is on the other foot? Are you trying to revive something that is not working, is dying, is mostly dead? Are you resisting the saw of the Lord? It’s easier to tell someone else to let it go then to let it go yourself, isn’t it?
By far the hardest to live with is when the Lord comes along and sees a fruitful branch and prunes it off, cuts it back, and throws what was once fruitful away. I’ve been in a vineyard and asked why they do that and was told that it is the fruitful branches that they look at first and save them while they cut off all the other branches and pile them to be burned. Then they carefully take the fruitful branch and cut it back and then tie it up on the wire to produce more fruit in the following year. I was told, if they left all the length of growth on the fruitful branch and tied it up as is, it would not bear fruit for it would grow and grow until it was too far from the trunk of the vine and it would not receive the nutrition it needed to bear fruit. You see, the grape gets its nutrients from the vine, not the branch. The branch just helps it reach the sun and the rain and carries it until the harvest.
When the Lord comes and looks at our fruitful branches He is checking to see if they, like my silver maple tree, are becoming too heavy and dangerous to the total plant. If it is He cuts it back so the yield and quality of the fruit will be better and so it will make way for new growth to appear.
They say that pruning controls the shape, improves and maintains health, and trains the plant in the best way to grow to serve the gardener’s needs. Some plants are pruned so they don’t interfere with other plants by growing out of their area. Isn’t that interesting? For an older plant pruning can rejuvenate and encourage new growth.
A seasoned gardener knows how to cut the branch. Different plants and trees need different cuts to protect the entire tree. I was shocked to see the limbs of the good tree cut back to the main base. They explained to me that if they had only cut it back a little way it might have grown back again and would be over the house again and would need to be trimmed again. If they didn’t cut it correctly it could have an open wound and it would allow disease to enter it and kill the entire tree. So, although it cost me dearly and my tree doesn’t look the same and I’m sad that so many limbs were cut off, I am assured that the tree surgeon knew what was best for my tree and that it will look better in years to come. So should we trust the Great Physician who is inspecting our branches? Who better to check to see if there are areas that need pruning because they could harm us or others? Can we still trust Him if He is done with that part of our lives when it has yielded all the fruit it will yield and He wants us to hear His call to let go and move on? Can we trust Him when He sees the fruitful place that has become very fruitful but has grown too far away from the source of nourishment (Jesus) and the fruit has begun to take up all our time and all our strength? Pruning that branch will bring us back closer to the Savior, which will revive, encourage, and rejuvenate us to continue to grow more and better fruit.
Although my back yard is taking a while to get used to and sometimes I grieve for the old, I know that what we did was the best we could do for our future and for the health of our trees. I am looking forward to see new growth in the future. One blessing we did get from this process is another limb for swinging. We had not realized that there was a strong limb on the other side of the tree that would be a great swinging limb. It had become a pain for Alan to keep changing swings on the old limb for the two granddaughters of different ages and abilities. They hated waiting for their turn on the swing. When the tree surgeon was there he pointed out another great limb for swinging that he even promised would hold an adult. So, you see, an expert can see potential in areas we missed. If I can trust the tree surgeon then I can surely trust the Great Physician and Gardener. After all He created it all and knows how everything can be beautiful in its time. That’s why I am deciding to be willing to allow Him to continue to prune me even if it hurts for a little while. I know that I can trust Him to make me beautiful, fruitful, and useful, and that’s a very good thing.