Updated: Jun 15, 2022
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 ever more fruitful. (John 15:2 NIV)
As a person with a selective green thumb—I cannot seem to kill succulents but can kill everything else—pruning is not high on my priority list. My overgrown succulents could use some help.
For us non-plant people, the Wikipedia definition of and reasons for pruning are as follows: “…selective removal of certain parts of a plant; practice entails targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue… Reasons to prune plants included deadwood removal, shaping, improving or sustaining health, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing nursery specimens for transplanting, and both harvesting and increasing the yield of quality flowers and fruits.”
What part do I remove? How do I know what allows my plant to grow a certain way or not?
Unlike me, Jesus is a master gardener, and a good thing, because people are a bit more fragile than succulents.
One year into the pandemic, I feel a bit pruned. For example, I could not always say yes to different activities, whether for ministry or fun, which gave me more time to focus on more specific things placed on my heart. Friends and beloved roommates have moved, making my circle smaller, which is difficult for an extrovert. But those I have been able to see have grown much closer. I am spending more time with family, in much more creative ways. Because of the free time, I am reading books of the Bible I would normally not. Leviticus? Numbers anyone? Like many, it is a change in the rhythms and thoughts in my life that seem to be filled with more God time.
That is not to say that there was no pain. Pruning looks and feels painful. At the beginning of the pandemic, I was turned down from job after job. I miss my friends and love ones I cannot travel to see; I have realized that keeping in touch is not always my strong suit, especially in times of stress, leading to strained relationships. Because of my job, I have had to be even more selective in my interactions—I especially miss serving on the Creekside worship team. Dreams of my heart have been put on indefinite hold. These are just a few of the ways I feel pruned.
The other difficult thing about undergoing pruning is that the results are not always apparent and take time to grow into. Sure, a plant may look different right away. Some look much better immediately, some not until later. Some plants are fruitful sooner, others take time. Nonetheless, all have been cut back, needing to heal before growing fruit. Even in secular spaces this is evident: how often have discussions touched upon the time and energy it will take to return to (a new and unknown) normal? I sometimes feel like the whole world has gone through some sort of pruning right now, and we are waiting for the result!
I do not think vines are as hardy as succulents, and it seems an apt description for us given how fragile we are. Verse 4 in John 15 gives us the key to our pruning: that if we remain in the true vine, Jesus, we will not be cut away and will bear fruit. We also have confidence in God’s skillful hands as the Spirit pours Living Water over us. Master Gardener indeed!
One last point. I mentioned above how the world seems to be being pruned. For us Christians, it is especially important because of John 15:8: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” I leave you with a thought: how have you been, or how are you being, pruned for God’s glory