by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter
“The purpose of pruning is to improve the roses, not to harm the bush.”
~ Florence Liteaux
I love the seasons, but they can be foisted on us more quickly then we’re ready many times. I know Fall decorations are already out in many crafts stores in summer, and some even have Christmas out. So I had to chuckle at the irony of cleaning up my garden in August, a chore I usually leave until later in the season. Part of the reason is that I had time (and the heat had turned many things brown already) but part of the reason was that I was getting ready for company.
While I was pruning back one large bush, I started to think about what pruning does to the plant – and what Jesus said about pruning.
Pruning a plant opens the core of the plant up to light, water and nutrients. It encourages new growth, fuller and healthier throughout the plant, instead of growth only at the visible tips of the plant. Any good gardener (as my Southern grandfather taught me) knows that sometimes to be friendliest to a plant is to mercilessly prune it. It feels wrong and harmful, but even though the immediate effect may make the plant look ill, the long-term gain to the plant – its health and appearance – is worth it. It’s true even to the overall appearance and health of a larger garden – when each individual plant is pruned at the base, or has sentinel plants removed to create space, all plants have more room for light and water and nutrients. Then the garden, as a whole, looks stronger and more vigorous. Part of the effort, though, is knowing when to prune what so that the flowering and growth of each plant during the next season is not discouraged. And there are different tools that are correct for pruning of different types, that encourage the best outcome for the plant.
Consider for a moment what pruning is. It’s not the removal of weeds or thorns, things external to the plant that hinder growth. It’s the cutting off of the long shoots of the plant itself that have grown over that season. It’s the removal of something that comes from within the plant, produced by the life of the plant itself. It is the removal of something that is a proof of the vigor of the life of the plant. In many ways, the more vigorous the growth has been, the greater the need for the pruning.
Is this not also true for our own lives? In John 15:2, Jesus says “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.” God knows our seasons. He knows when we need to be pruned to encourage fruit from us, fruit that is produced according to His will, and in some cases perhaps even fruit of which we will never really be aware. He knows which tools will best prune us for His purpose, and for our best growth in the new season. Even when we don’t think the time for pruning is optimal, He knows when His pruning will yield good fruit from us, or when a season may call for – instead of pruning to encourage active new growth – quietness and a seeming dormancy.
In John 15:1-8, Jesus speaks of the Source of that Life that requires pruning: “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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in Me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”
The branch has but one object for which it exists, one purpose to which it is entirely given up: to bear the fruit the vine wishes to bring forth. And so we as Believers have but one reason for being a branch, one reason for our time here in exile – that the heavenly Vine may through us bring forth His fruit. Jesus is the Source of our Life.
I’m anticipating the wreath on my door for fall this year will be a simple wreath of grapevine.
Even in seasons of pruning, or dormancy (COVID, anyone?), have faith. His plans for you are not yet finished, and you are one of the branches through which His work will be accomplished.