This spring my uncle gave me my first lesson in pruning fruit trees. While I am nowhere close to proficient, the experience gave me a new understanding of Christ’s words, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1,2)
The first lesson I learned is that the one pruning is a visionary; he does not see the twigs that are there, but the branches that they will become. Based on that, he decides what growth to leave, and what to prune out. When the Lord looks at the various parts of our life and our character, He sees how they will develop down the road.
On an apple tree, the desirable boughs are those which grow out horizontally, within easy reach for picking the fruit and into a space where they will receive enough sunlight. The goal of pruning is to maximize the amount of nourishment and sunlight that these branches will receive.
The easiest part of pruning is removing the dead branches; it is very clear that they need to be gone in order to avoid shading the living branches. It is easy to understand why the Lord prunes out certain parts of our lives which He shows us to be sinful, dead works.
But once the dead branches are removed, it becomes a lot harder for me to know what to prune. There are some healthy, vibrant boughs that need to be taken out, because they grow straight up, where their fruit will be out of reach and of no use to anyone. They will only shade the lower branches. Therefore, they are pruned out, though it might seem like a shame. There are things in our lives that might not be bad, just useless, and they take energy that could be put into more profitable things. When our desire is to bear fruit for the Lord, He loves us too well to let us be comfortably distracted into wasting our lives.
It’s even harder to understand why some branches must be removed that grow in the right direction, and seem full of promise for good fruit. But they need to be pruned out because they will crowd out the other fruitful boughs. Our lives can only support a finite number of occupations, even useful ones. Our Husbandman sometimes has to help us focus on the good works that He has given us to do (Eph. 2:10), not all the good things that need to be done.
Yet just as there is a limit to how many fruitful branches a tree can sustain, there is a limit to how many of the undesirable branches can be removed at one time. How wise the Father is, knowing just how much to prune us at a given time. I’m so glad that He is the one who holds the clippers, and that I can trust His all-wise, all-loving hand to make my life more fruitful.