When I was young, I used to watch my dad cut back his beloved rose bushes every spring. I’d be in charge of putting the cut stems into the trash.
After we finished the roses we’d go around the yard and trim all his fruit trees. It was a meticulous task and often times I’d watch him carefully consider which branch to trim. He would consider how the tree would grow before he snipped anything.
After a while, I would get bored standing there picking up the pruned branches, and I’d sigh in hopes of being relieved of my trash duty. But instead, that was his signal to fill the boredom with how and when to prune a tree.
I’d watch as he’d cut back what I thought were perfectly good stems and branches. He’d say, “you take off one-third of new growth, even if it is flowering with the promise of fruit. You’ll be happier the next year when the branch is stronger and can hold more fruit.” He’d say the same thing about the roses too.
And then he’d fall into the murmuring details of how pruning is necessary for all living things to flourish. As a teenager, you can imagine just how interested I was in hearing that.
But guess what? Now I have a yard with roses and fruit trees and yes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…” as the saying goes.
And you know what I learned? My father was right about all living things...especially me.
It seems every fall and winter for the last few years the Lord has worked silently and diligently pointing out my faults, my shortcomings and asking me to let go of my pride. Boy did (and does) He have his work cut out for Him!
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
He takes away every branch…
Here's how my life worked...
Me: I am going to make more time to write this year…
Maybe not. I spent over 7 hours a day last school year driving carpools, kids to sports and taking others to doctor’s appointments. But I ended up with more one-on-one opportunities to talk to my kids about their lives. I built deeper relationships with each of them.
Me: I am going to take more time to keep my house cleaner and decorate it.
My mom had health challenges all winter. But it offered me opportunities to be with her as we went to doctor’s appointments, sat in waiting rooms or waited to hear of results. I spent precious time laughing about growing up memories and taking in my mother’s love.
I see a trend.
This spring, my good friend, Robbie Iobst gave me a word that came to her mind when she was praying for me.
My heart knew this word immediately.
It was what I had been struggling with all winter, in fact all year.
Every time I desired things to be my way, God reminded me of the bigger picture. It’s not about me. And when I try to make it about me, I’m not really that happy.
I took a wonderful class this spring on the Book of Psalms. I learned so many things, but one of the most powerful, life-changing concepts I grasped was how much happier and at peace the psalmist was when he relied on God instead of himself; when he remembered the promises God made instead of forging ahead with his own will.
Hmmm...relevance to my struggle?
Jesus continued to say, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
You know what? When I gave in, when I finally allowed all the pruning of obedience to take place, something miraculous happened (at least it was miraculous to me anyway).
I finished the biggest writing challenge I’ve ever had, and I did it—not with taking more time to write—but relying on God to give me small amounts of time and then inspiring me with the right words and concepts to fill the pages.
And now, forever on my pruned heart, I will carry the branch that says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7)
Snip away, Lord! You are the Master Pruner!