Here we are in the midst of winter in the northern hemisphere and images of my father pouring over various gardening catalogs and magazines come to mind. He grew up on a farm and even when farming was not his full time occupation, he was intrigued by all the ways to prepare soil, plant and nurture new seeds, plants, and trees, and also how to assure they would flourish and produce the very best as a reward for all his hard work.
I recall one of the tasks was pruning. How I respected his knowledge of knowing when each thing needed to be pruned. He died in 1995 and I did not gain his knowledge along the way except in the broadest terms.
My dad knew when to prune apple, cherry, and peach trees he grew. I only know it wasn’t the same time he pruned the roses, blueberry, and blackberry bushes. It also wasn’t the same time he pruned the grape vines that grew producing their luscious delights in early fall.
No matter where I shop for produce, I cannot find anything that compares with the bounty that came from my dad’s hard work, knowledge, and passion for gardening. The closest I can come is to visit our local orchard.
Beyond the luscious results, why is pruning so important?
If you check online for that answer you will see that pruning not only gets rid of the dead and dying parts of the plant, shrub, or tree and allows for new healthy growth, but it also deters pests and other enemies of healthy vegetation and reduces the risk of healthy parts being broken off. Additionally, good pruning allows the vegetation to be shaped as you desire to promote the best healthy growth possible.
But there are other kinds of pruning as well.
Did you know our bodies have been designed for something called synaptic pruning that is done naturally in the brain between childhood (when large amounts of growth happens) and adulthood? The process results in the brain eliminating extra synapses, removing connections we no longer need so that our brain functions are more efficient as we get older and start to acquire more complex bits of information.
And of course, there is the pruning Jesus talks about in the Gospel of John:
“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.”
John 15:2 (NIV)
Unquestionably the Lord knows more about pruning than any one of his human creation. We might be tempted to think His pruning is only of the “not so good” parts of us, but pruning is a long-term investment and commitment and He has more in mind than getting rid of what seems to be unproductive.
I love the fascinating work of Margaret Feinberg in her book Scouting the Divine: My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey. If this book has not come your way, I would encourage you to add it to your reading list.
In the parable of the vineyard John writes about in his Gospel, consider the metaphor evident in the realities of being a vintner and preparing and nurturing a vineyard:
- Soil needs to be prepared to provide for the very best root systems to develop.
- Dormant shoots from a grape vine from a nursery are planted and pruned all the way down to two buds on the cane according to the chapter on wine and vineyards in Margaret’s book.
- The second-year vines are scrutinized and managed even more carefully and pruned to assure they will develop in a way allowing the vine to be healthy and to produce for decades to come.
- When the third-year results in some fruit on those vines, vintners let it drop to the ground. (It won’t be until the fourth year a small harvest will result in a little wine to be aged.)
Of course, it doesn’t stop there, but to delve into the fascinating intricacy of being a vintner, check out Margaret’s chapters on this in the book noted above.
Think of yourself as part of the Lord’s vineyard and how patiently He tends and prunes you over the course of your faith journey. And don’t forget there will be times when He trims fruitful areas because He knows the design He has for each of us and wants to develop even more fruit.
Sometimes He will prune something we enjoy or believe in and we will be tempted to believe it was a failure on our part or the enemy’s handiwork. Those possibilities might be true, but sometimes it is Him. Sometimes He prunes some area of ministry that we have given all of ourselves to or He may prune relationships that were precious to us.
Consider then that He is developing the most bountiful vineyard and the very best award-winning wine like we see in His first miracle of water to wine that the Gospel of John tells us about in the second chapter of that Gospel.
The Lord chose us, died for us even when we were broken and messy, and prunes us to produce the most incredible fruit and delicious wine anyone can imagine.
Trust Him with the pruning.