“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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-5
On a drive through Pheonix Park, Dublin, I stumbled into a garden. The local restaurant had their garden behind a massive brick wall. The flowers were stunning but the trained trees caught my eye. These were regular fruit trees that had been planted with the purpose to grow up the walls of the garden.
Instead of allowing the branches to grow out into the garden, wires had been strung parallel to the walls and the branches had been trained to grow behind them. As the branches grew, they would be pushed behind the wires causing them to grow up vertically rather than reaching out. It was an interesting way to force a tree to grow.
All of the trees were loaded down with fruit. Gardeners had been busy pruning off the branches and parts of the tree that were of no use to them. Leaving the healthy, fruit producing branches behind, the gardeners and kitchen staff were expecting a bountiful harvest.
The Father is the gardener. He has His pruning shears ready. They are sharp and well maintained, ready to accomplish the task they were meant for. God, in His wisdom, knows that there are parts of my heart, mind and life that are in need of pruning. They aren’t living up to their potential. They may be dragging me down into places I was never meant to be. They may be causing my fruit production to be limited. In His love and mercy, He applies the pruning shears in order to produce more fruit in me. He cuts those branches off purposefully.
Sometimes they are branches that I would like to hang on to. They seemed to serve their purpose. They were comfortable, familiar, easy to maintain. However, the Wise Gardener is able to look at the life and get to the bottom of what is worth salvaging and what is simply best to be done away with.
The goal is to be connected to the Vine. Rooted, planted, established, growing in Him. Without that intimate connection, there is no growth. Development is not only stunted, it is destroyed. Jesus asks me to remain in Him. To be so closely linked that it is hard to know where One leaves off the next one begins. His plans are good. Growth, development, character, maturity all require time, patience, and shaping. He desires all of that for me. That I would more closely resemble Him.
However, if I am honest, pruning often hurts. I know it is for my good. I know that I will be better for it in the end. But it is painful. It leaves parts of my heart tender and raw. But the changes that He is working in me are ones that are intended to develop me into the person He has always desired me to be. The pruning is a call to become more deeply attached to the Vine.
In this Advent season, my Father, the Gardener is wanting to mould and shape me. I pray that I will be willing to experience the pain of the pruning so that the fruit of His work will grow.