Spring snuck up on us this year. Winter never seemed to arrive, and now, plants and trees and vines that need pruning are suddenly sprouting with early growth. Most years at pruning time, I get lost in thoughts about the whole process. Thoughts like:
- I know pruning’s required for training growth and for protecting health and for improving fruit quality, but pruning makes me nervous. I’m always sure I’ll inflict irreparable damage.
- And deeper thoughts, like: Why, metaphorically (since the Lord sets everything up for a reason), is pruning required? Why, as in: What does God mean to show us about the mystery of the unseen spiritual world through the physical-world’s yearly pruning process?
- And since God set up the pruning process like He did, I want to understand Jesus’ words and intended correlation from John 15:
“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.
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:1-8)
What did Jesus mean? This:
- The Father is the gardener.
- Jesus is the true grapevine. He’s the perfect embodiment of the true witness, the true Israel (Psalm 80, Isaiah 5).
- Branches attached to a grapevine are supposed to produce fruit. If a branch doesn’t produce fruit, the Father/gardener cuts the branch off.
- If a branch does produce fruit, the Father prunes the branch. The gardener knows that pruned branches produce the best and most fruit:
“Before we are in [Christ], we are dry and useless wood.” (John Calvin) Then, when we know Him, “through hardship, discipline, and suffering, we are pruned so that our fruit will be ever greater and ever sweeter. The Father prunes us if we abide in Christ.” (R.C. Sproul)
Repeated pruning = richer and finer fruit. Note to self: Don’t fear the Lord’s pruning.
- So, a pruned branch must stay attached to the grapevine, to his words and His message, in order to continue in fruitfulness. Much fruit is produced when the vine feeds the branch which stays attached.
- But, cut off from vital union with Christ, a severed branch cannot produce fruit. “If we abide in Christ and bear fruit we can know that we are truly His. Some are cut off because they are not His — they try to attach themselves to Christ without abiding in Him through faith…those who bear no fruit are just dead wood and were never truly a part of the vine to begin with.” (R.C. Sproul)
- Those who are cut off wither and are gathered into a pile to be burned.
- But. If you remain in Jesus, attached to him, desiring His direction through the Holy Spirit, asking for the Father’s glory, according to His will, your prayers are answered.
Much fruit = true disciple = great glory to the Father. Note to self: Don’t fear the Lord’s pruning.
So as I prune to promote health and flourishing in my earthly plants, and start to see the correlation between earthly growth and invisible, spiritual realities, I’m left with these thoughts:
- Our Father’s so kind. He set up visual illustrations for us. Plants. Pruning. Fruit. Dry wood. Visuals to remind us of eternal truth. Truth we want to meditate on, obey, trust.
- I do want to be a fruitful follower of Jesus, with His life flowing through and out from me to others. The cutting during the pruning process of suffering, hardship and discipline hurts (Rom. 5:1-5), but I want to bear rich fruit. For Him. No matter what.
- Finally this, especially this: As I prune in my little earthly garden, I sometimes still have trouble believing that the disciplining of the plant will produce rich fruit in the months to come. I still find myself skeptical: “What if the invisible process begun by painful pruning doesn’t work this time?”
But it always does.
becomes summer’s this:
Every single year. Every single time.
Note to self: Do not fear the Lord’s pruning.