[Wow, it’s been a while! Praying I can be back to writing once a month … it’s incredibly fulfilling and therapeutic for me and if someone else occasionally gets blessed by it, that’s a bonus!]
So here we go …
In NO way am I an expert in pruning. Of all the colors my thumb could be, green is the least applicable. But understanding the process of pruning, and more importantly the benefit of pruning, by analogy, is quite familiar to me. The experiences I’ve had in life always have been and continue to be, even in this crazy season our world is in, a process of pruning. How?
Well, to my understanding (and with the help of the internet), pruning is a process of –
“the selective removal of certain parts of a plant, such as branches, buds, or roots. Reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or redirecting growth), improving or sustaining health, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing nursery specimens for transplanting, and both harvesting and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits … the practice entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants.”
I don’t know about you, but the process of pruning I’ve gone through over the years has been painful. It hasn’t been fun. There have been difficult seasons, struggle, and regret. Note the specific way I said that, however … the process of pruning is what’s been painful. And while I don’t know exactly what it’s like to prune a plant or tree, let alone to BE the plant or tree, it seems to me the process of pruning for them is also painful and unenjoyable.
It seems like the days we’re in feel like a pruning process for many of us. People are getting sick, some of us know some who have actually died. Not to minimize the virus pandemic, but outside of that … people are getting sick and some of us know some who have died … from other causes. As a result of the pandemic, we have businesses closed, cities on full-blown lockdown, fear abounding and reigning, and hopefulness being usurped at times by hopelessness. Schools are closed, sports are canceled (my personal greatest challenge), and we’re in a fundamentally different, albeit temporary, time for us all.
But as difficult and painful as the process of pruning can be, the result of pruning is invaluable. The Bible shares how God uses the pruning process in us for His glory and our growth and good … John 15:1-4 promises –
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
In the definition above, it shares that the “reasons to prune plants include deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or redirecting growth),improving or sustaining health, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing nursery specimens for transplanting, and both harvesting and increasing the yield or quality.” Jesus, having created trees, plants, pruning, etc., knew that not only were these benefits true for plants, but also for you and me. Verse two of the passage above powerfully confirms that “He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
God’s heart for us is to produce maximal fruit, fruit for His kingdom. That means He seeks for our benefit and blessing the result of pruning … removing deadwood, shaping us, redirecting growth, improving and sustaining our health, and reducing risk from parts of us that are weak. While it might seem random or pointless, note in the definition above once again that pruning is the “selective removal of certain parts.” That indicates, importantly, that there is a selector, and it would have to be someone with a requisite expertise, perspective, and ability beyond the general populace. And it must be done out of an inherent desire to create a stronger, better, healthier plant … that is, it must be done from a heart of adoration and love for the thing being pruned.
Jesus made it quite clear … His Father is the gardener. Our Father. The Creator of ALL things and of ALL of us. He alone is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient … He alone is the one with the requisite expertise, perspective, and ability to truly selectively prune His created ones. He alone is capable of doing it from a heart of pure adoration and love. That is adoration and love for you and for me.
We are all going through challenges these days. In these specific days, maybe you have lost your job either temporarily or permanently … or maybe you don’t know which it will be. I’m not trying to minimize those circumstances of uncertainty, but I want to leave you with the certainty that God, my Father and your Father, is selectively removing parts for the explicit and specific purpose to cause growth, to improve your future health, to shape you, and to increase the yield of your life someday. That may not take away the pain you’re going through, but my hope is that it might bring some semblance of comfort, knowing it is anything but random and without a doubt not intended to cause dismay.
Maybe you’re a business owner and have had to confront difficult decisions regarding your employees, and notwithstanding those decisions you’re still in a situation wondering whether your business will survive. Please KNOW … I have no doubt it’s hard and fearsome, but my prayer is you’ll draw solace in knowing that the Master Gardener is actively and lovingly tending to you, NOT ignoring you, for the purpose of your growth, your health, your blessing. I don’t doubt it feels nothing like that, but I pray that you have faith that the process of pruning, while challenging, will yield the wondrous healthy growth that God the Father brings as a result of the pruning.
In no way do I want to make it seem I’m belittling or simplifying the struggle you’re going through. The struggles I am going through now and have gone through in the past were not simple. They were not easy. In the moment, they were not welcome. But looking back, I can clearly see that God used the horrible-feeling pruning process to bless me with the pruning result of growth, shaping, health, and future yield of fruit through my life. I pray you see that too, whether in the process or through the result.
Soli Deo gloria!