Posted on September 4, 2013
John 15:1-2 is a powerful passage. John writes, “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.” At one time, these words made me uncomfortable and wonder why God thought pruning was a good idea. Over the last few years I have seen this truth with fresh eyes and slowly embraced what the passage proclaims. Then this weekend happened and I saw a new depth that once escaped my grasp.
This past Spring, my wife and I installed 3 raised garden beds in our backyard and started learning to be “urban farmers.” I use that term loosely if you’ve seen our first season’s results. Anyway, this past weekend I looked into my backyard and noticed weed problems, withered branch problems, and overgrowth problems. I decided to do something about it, grabbed my pruning tool of choice and went to work. As I was focused on the work, God began to speak to me out of John 15:1-2.
I quickly realized my entire motivation for pruning and weeding the beds was a desire to see our garden thrive and experience new growth in the coming season. I wasn’t frustrated with the plants, but I recognized without some pruning we would have to scrap everything and start over next year. In that moment I realized God is never motivated by rejection or putting us in our place. When He prunes our lives back it really is to set us up to thrive and grow at a new level in the next season. Therefore pruning, though painful at times, is always rooted in the goodness of God.
The next insight that came to mind was the fact that what I removed was dead, not growing, and not suitable for eating. And it was an eye sore. I realized, God removes what isn’t working in our lives. He’s after it, because it is dead weight. For us it might be an attitude, a mindset, a relationship or two (or ten – for those inclined towards extraversion), or an activity that has you on a fast track to nowhere. I also pruned runners from our strawberry plants that were zapping all the plants energy to expand but were not fruit bearing. In other words, some of the growth needed pruning to allow for a return to fruitfulness. Sometimes we are experiencing expansion in so many areas, God prunes us back to focus on a few areas and increase fruitfulness, rather than trying to bear fruit in all areas.
The final revelation for the morning was the most powerful and inspiring. In fact, when it hit my mind, it brought me to tears. When pruning difficult to reach areas, I had to get extremely close to the place selected for pruning, and use the most care to not go further than needed. And my only motivation was allowing the plant to breathe again in order to grow and bear fruit. It was evident the dead weight shut down what the plant was made to do.
Did you catch that? While our relationship with God is always from a place of union, I realized that the most tender places in our emotions and understanding are given the greatest care in the hands of the gardener. These are places of our greatest experiences of intimacy and never to be received through the lens of rejection. Undone. The God of Heaven, who can do whatever He pleases, prefers tenderness and care when He addresses areas that need adjustment in our lives. What a loving, thoughtful, and deliberate Father who knows what’s best for us, when we can’t see clearly. And who is motivated by returning us to bear the fruit of our design. My hope is to remind you of the nature of God and inspire you to journey with God through the pruning seasons from an understanding that all of God’s dealings are good because He is good. Even pruning is good news!