Monday, April 19, 2010

Pruning time

He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so that they will produce even more. – John 15:2 (NLT)

Driving by an orchard in early spring can be a traumatic experience for folks who aren’t familiar with pruning. I grew up in an urban area, and my philosophy about growing things was “let ‘em grow.” When I moved to the country, though, I was shocked when I saw what appeared to be half the tree lying on the ground. How on earth can you cut that much off and not kill the tree? I wondered.

Then my husband and I bought some fruit trees. In time we learned that if we wanted a good harvest, we’d have to prune the trees. But still we held off pruning them because we didn’t know what we were doing and were afraid of doing more harm than good.

Until this year. After harvesting one too many pears that were dwarfed, misshapen and speckled—and too much work to can—my husband decided it was time to take the plunge. After consulting with a few people who knew more about pruning than he did, he started lopping. When he was done, half the branches lay on the ground.

Did he cut too much off? I wondered. Did he kill the tree?

Two weeks later, white blossoms appeared. Maybe this year we’ll have some nice-sized pears to can—ones from which I won’t have to cut away half the fruit to get something usable.

Pruning is more than removing dead, broken, diseased or problem branches. It also involves lopping off branches that do bear fruit, which to me, never made sense. But as I read up on pruning, I learned that some productive branches need to be sacrificed so they won’t take away the energy and nourishment from other branches that have a better chance to grow and bear more fruit—bigger fruit, better fruit.

A Christian’s purpose is to bear fruit for God. He has equipped each of us with what we need to be productive, but sometimes we have too many branches siphoning off our energy. Sometimes God Himself lops off those branches which He knows, while producing some fruit, are preventing other areas from producing an abundant harvest. Sometimes He makes us aware of those areas and prompts us to make the cut ourselves.

A few years ago I taught full time and wrote part-time. Every week I’d complain to my husband, “I can’t do this any more—I can’t work two jobs. I’m too tired at night to write.” When I finally lopped off the teaching branch, which was painful to do, the writing branch began to bear more fruit.

Pruning, especially cutting off productive branches for the sake of the more fruitful ones, is painful. But if we submit to the shears of our loving Gardener, we can know that beyond the pain is a bumper crop for God.

Lord, help me to look beyond the pain of pruning to the joyful fruit that will result. Amen.

Special-Tea: John 15:1–8

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