A succession of pecan trees lines the road to our homeplace. They have stood at least a century and now are stooped with age, losing life and limb with every storm-force gale of the season.
They once bore much fruit–so much we would put down tarps to catch the treasures falling in the autumn breeze faster than we could collect with our hands.
But they haven’t been nurtured. There’s been no fertilizer, no pruning, no tending to the once bountiful trees–only a vague expectation that they would continue to produce despite the storms.
I often wonder who planted them. My family has lived on this farm for generations. Someone at some point planted these trees with the hope of cakes and cookies and pies.
That first seed held such promise. All seeds do.
The Promise of Pruning
When the first tender shoot breaks through the soil, there is life, hope, expectancy. There is the possibility of blossom and fruit, produce and harvest.
Likewise, a new believer is filled with hope and possibility. The old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17). The pain of our past mistakes is wiped away like crumbs from our laps, and we face the future with expectancy.
But eventually the storms come because they always do. And they often cause the heart to question the goodness of God and to fear that maybe this isn’t what it was supposed to be.
Much like that seed planted with expectation, we come to Christ with the longing for better things; but we sometimes confuse the eternal with the temporal. If we don’t get into the truth of the Word, we are likely to fall for the world’s belief that all should be fair and go our way.
The plant must be nurtured in order to grow and thrive.
That tender shoot is still vulnerable and dependent on the rain, sunshine, and carbon dioxide to make the very food that means survival. Even the sturdiest and healthiest and most mature plants still must depend on factors outside itself to continue to flourish.
And so it is with us.
Our God is the Gardener and He carefully tends each new shoot, providing the elements that cause the branches of His Vine to grow. He sends the rain of His Spirit to water each thirsty soul. He gives His Word as fertilizer to nourish our potential.
But He does something else that we neglected with our pecan trees. He prunes the fruitful branches so that they might bear more fruit.
“‘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.'”John 15:1-2, NIV
Pruning is necessary for plants for many reasons:
- It gets rid of non-producing areas so that the plant’s energy can be focused on the fruitful areas.
- It redirects and guides the plant’s growth.
- It prevents the spread of disease.
- It allows light to reach areas that need it.
- It corrects a weaker area of growth.
- It results in a healthier, more attractive plant.
- It creates space for more planting. (Garden.com)
As branches abiding in the Vine, we too need pruning so that we might become more fruitful. Pruning gets rid of areas that are taking our focus off the Lord. It redirects and guides our growth.
Pruning can prevent the spread of sin in our lives, allowing light to shine on the areas of pride and selfishness that we don’t always see in ourselves. It can correct the weaker areas of our faith so that we can thrive.
And though it is painful, pruning allows us to grow into healthier, more attractive witnesses for Christ. It creates the humility and space for us to plant more seeds around us.
Pruning is the promise for fruitful branches. It makes us stronger so we can withstand the storms that come with more love, peace, and joy.
So how do we endure the painful process of being pruned?
We remain in Him and His Word remains in us.
“‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.'”John 15:5-8
Our Father is a good and patient Gardener who tends and nourishes us for our own good and for His glory. He chose us and appointed us, not just so that we could enjoy an abundant life now in His presence, but so that we would bear fruit that would last for eternity.
“‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.'”John 15:16a
The storms will come. We live in a fallen world. The Bible repeatedly reminds us that there is much suffering in the world (John 16:33, Romans 8:17-18, 2 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Peter 4:12-13). And without the pruning and cutting away of those things that bring sin and weakness, much like the trees on our lane, we will lack the strength to overcome.
Trust the Gardener
Just as some of our trees have been completely uprooted from the wind, sometimes the chaos of life leaves us feeling uprooted and exposed. But if we are rooted in Christ, our faith will stand. The pruning may hurt, but it won’t destroy us (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
The dead and unfruitful areas need to go anyway. They are just weighing us down. God wants us to grow and produce good fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
There are some pecans on the trees this year. I can’t tell if it will be good fruit or not. We’ve neglected these trees. We haven’t been good gardeners, and the winds have been fierce. We can hardly expect to reap what we haven’t nurtured.
But God is our Gardener, and He never wastes anything. Whatever He is pruning from our lives was stunting our growth. He is faithful to lift each branch with tender care and work to strengthen and nurture what remains.
Trust His care and know that you were chosen and appointed to bear fruit. Remain in the Vine, and let the Father do His work. You can still bear fruit despite the painful pruning.
And remember that every fruit bears new seeds, and every seed holds promise. He is making room for a few new plants around you.