A season for pruning
We have a mountain ash in our backyard that is bursting with berries this year! Dozens of bright orange clusters heavily weigh down the limbs of our little tree. The branches are literally drooping, almost touching the ground. Last year the entire tree produced only one berry cluster so you can imagine my excitement this summer. Our little tree is flourishing!
I wonder though…is there a point where that tree might be producing too many berries for its own good? As I thought more about that, it also made me think of John 15: 1-8 ,
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. If you do not remain in me, you are 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 done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Warren Wiersbe helped bring these verses to life for me. As you read this brief excerpt from one of his commentaries think how God might be speaking to you through His word.
“Your heavenly Father is never nearer to you than when He is pruning you. Sometimes He cuts away the dead wood that might cause trouble, but often He cuts off the living tissue that is robbing you of spiritual vigor. Pruning does not simply mean spiritual surgery that removes what is bad. It can also mean cutting away the good and the better so that we might enjoy the best. Yes, pruning hurts, but it also helps. We may not enjoy it, but we need it.”
I thought about the fruit that my mountain ash was bearing this year. Was it going to be sweet, colourful, and juicy or would some of it be decaying and rotting? Were the berries going to attract the birds or would they pass by it this year? Then I thought about the fruits I was producing. Am I spreading the fruit of the spirit as God intended me to? Am I full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control? Or do I have moments where I am just the opposite?
It’s been a busy year in our household . We’ve helped set our girls set up in their first home, we’ve had a continual flow of visitors at the lake all summer, our business continues to keep us on our toes and my ministry and blog are beginning to take root. I’ve happily taken more on as it comes my way. I feel like I’ve been presented with more and more opportunities to represent Christ in my everyday life! It’s what I have prayed for and I couldn’t be more pleased.
At times though, I’ve been aware that my schedule has been so full that when something urgent comes along everything else gets pushed out of place. It’s almost like there is too much weight on my branches and they begin to break. I’m producing all very rich fruit but maybe too much for the branch to support. With no break in sight I too can begin to feel laden down. Has my zest for living a Christ centered life left my limbs drooping to the ground? Could that little mountain ash and I have something in common?
Even in the midst of a bumper crop we all need a little pruning to encourage our best and most productive fruit! I did a quick google search on tree pruning and my thoughts were confirmed! God is our gardener and Jesus is the vine that provides us with our daily nourishment. Did you know that a tree needs its branches pruned so that:
- Light can reach the inside of a tree.. is my schedule allowing God’s light to penetrate me?
- The tree doesn’t grow inward… do I continue to grow spiritually or does my schedule prohibit that?
- The trees branches don’t cross and compete with each other… am I so busy that my works take away from my works?
As Warren said, pruning is difficult to do and sometimes hurts. Who wants to cut off something that is producing so abundantly? I cringe even when I prune my petunias! It’s simple for me to snap off a withered flower but it kills me to snip off 6 inches of blooming stems. It’s such a shame to throw away those gorgeous flowers. What if they don’t flower again this season? But each time I do that I am blessed with fuller blooms!
This summer I think God was trying to teach me something. In the midst of my busyness I felt very overwhelmed and had little time to myself. Although I made time each day for my devotions and continued to abide in God, it was frustrating as I felt rushed. With the limited time I wasn’t allowing myself to connect with God in the ways I had before. I was at a loss for words for my blog and although I always knew God was close by, He felt very distant at the same time. I did my best to hold onto the hope He provides, but I still found myself lost in doubt and despair.
I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudging to allow myself more quiet time. I admit though, at first I sought the wrong kind of down time. I think when we get so exhausted sometimes we feel we just need nothing time, a schedule free of commitments and concerns. I found myself retreating to quiet spaces but reaching for the wrong thing. I numbed my mind with scrolling through social media, playing solitaire or daydreaming. Time would slip by and I never felt renewed.
What I have realized is that I need God. He will take away my concerns and provide me with the rest I need. Slowly over the summer He helped me realize that I was in need of opening more time for Him. God is our master pruner! He is at work in us all the time and if we continue to abide in Him we will continue to produce His fruit through us. A fruit that is attractive, plentiful and nourishing!
God will determine what’s important in my schedule if I allow Him. So I started by taking breaks in my day and excusing myself from our guests. I found quiet spots where I prayed. I sat in silence waiting for His response. I reached out to my spiritual mentors. I trusted when I didn’t hear from God and continued to immerse myself in His word. To be honest I can’t tell you exactly when things began to shift, but they have!
I have found myself making changes that I never thought were possible. My fears of being less effective and letting people down are not crippling me as they did before. I’ve set some boundaries in my schedule that are allowing me more time. I have cut back on some of the programs I host and I’ve asked others to get involved and assist me.
Have you ever seen one of those slow motion videos of a plant growing? It’s almost like a new born child moving its limbs for the first time, free from its mother’s womb. I feel like that today! I feel like I’m opening up and uncurling myself. It feels like I’m moving and growing into free space. I’m stretching and moving freely. I’m leaning towards the light. I’m depending on that light for my daily nourishment. It feels like such a relief!
Praise be to the Lord,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.
Psalm 28: 6-7
I’m always interested how my experience relates to others. Do you feel overwhelmed? Do you feel God encouraging your branches to grow in a different direction? Are there any flourishing blooms in your life that may need a little pruning? Please take a moment and share with me in the comment box below.