Today a professional tree service came to our home to prune two of our trees, an ash in our front yard and a maple in the back. It is the first time the trees have been pruned in the fourteen years we have lived here. To our surprise, my wife and I are shocked by the results. The trees look so bare; we miss the leafy cover that gave us privacy.
So we are reminding ourselves why trees need to be pruned:
- pruning removes dead, dying or diseased branches and limbs that might cause property damage during a storm
pruning stimulates new growth by enhancing overall sunlight penetration and air circulation
pruning leads (eventually) to more beautiful shaping of trees.*
In the Gospel of John, Jesus highlights the practice of pruning to make an important spiritual point. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2).
This horticultural metaphor tells us that Jesus is our life source. He is the vine on which we grow as branches. Our purpose as branches is to bear fruit. When branches don’t bear fruit they are taken away. That makes sense. So far, so good.
Now comes the harder part. Some branches are bearing fruit. They are doing what they are designed to do. But the vinedresser (our heavenly Father) does not see as we do. Purposeful pruning takes place. The branch is cut back so that it may ultimately bear more fruit.
Just as my wife and I were shocked by the pruning of our ash and maple trees, many of us may be shocked (in the spiritual realm) by the pruning work of our heavenly Father. We had become accustomed to our life in faith before the Lord. There was some fruit on the branch. It seemed good enough to us. But as Oswald Chambers says, “the good is always the enemy of the best.”**
The pruning you may be experiencing just now may well be painful and mysterious. You thought the fruit generated by your life in faith was good enough. But God sees more in you and wants more from you.
Only unwell people crave difficult times. But when difficult times do come they can be purposeful. They can bump us out of well-worn grooves in which we have become too comfortable. They can force us to radical dependence on God, the only circumstance in which faith can fully blossom.
If you are shocked by the Father’s pruning in your life, if you thought things looked better before the pruning work was done, be patient and of good courage. In the Lord, we can be sure of this: a greater harvest awaits, a more beautiful shaping of our lives is being accomplished.
David Lenz, Lead Pastor
*I am grateful for this article https://www.lucastree.com/tree-pruning-benefits/, accessed 10-17-16.
** Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1935, renewed 1963), 146.