PRUNING AND GROWING
I grew up on a small farm, about 13 acres, two miles west of Plymouth, NC. Our house, with pines in the yard, was located up a dirt lane about a quarter of a mile from Highway US 64.
Each week day one of us would walk to the mail box at the foot of the lane, passing fields of corn, soy beans, and peanuts as well as fruit trees—apple and peach on one side and one pear tree on the other. We also had a vegetable garden nearer the house where I often helped Mom pick butter beans (limas for non-southerners) and string beans and pull up carrots.
In a barnyard behind our home was a “pack house” where we housed our cow Molly and our mule Lucy in adjacent stables. It had a hay loft, where, as a boy, I spent a lot of time playing. We also had a barn to cure tobacco.
My neighborhood friends and I passed many happy hours on our farm and in the adjacent woods. My brothers and I would walk to the highway each morning to catch the school bus and then back home again in the afternoon. Our home’s front porch had rocking chairs and a porch swing, where I developed my imagination by re-enacting adventure movies I had seen.
A favorite memory of the family farm was our grapevines. We had three scuppernong vines that had grown together under a wooden frame and a separate single concord vine. My mom always made delicious grape hull preserves from the scuppernongs. In late August and early September, when grapes ripened, I loved standing under the arbor and eating my fill!
One year my dad hired a man to come prune our vines. He had noticed that the harvest of grapes had been declining for a year or two, so a good pruning was needed. When the workman had finished and left, I went to see what he had done. I was horrified! He had cut our vines back so severely that I thought he probably had killed them. That year we had no grapes.
But the following year, the fruit was more abundant than it had ever been. The vine dresser knew that it is new growth that produces grapes. Left to itself, a vine pours all its resources into producing foliage to gather more sunlight and look luxuriant rather than making grapes. This was my first exposure to a vital spiritual, as well as natural, principle.
Jesus talked about vines, fruit, and pruning in John 15. he said, “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. Every barren branch of mine he cuts away; And every fruiting branch he cleans, to make it more fruitful still.” (John 15:1, 2 NEB)
A vine (or a tree) has a limited amount of nutrients to distribute to its branches. If any branch becomes unfruitful, it drains resources and hinders the plant’s ability to bear fruit. Pruning lets the vine redirect its nutrients to fruitful branches and thus to become even more fruitful. Jesus said “much fruit” glorifies the Father.
Pruning at first seems like a loss, but the purpose of pruning is not to harm the tree, but to help it. If Father removes something from our lives, it is a sure indication that he has done so to make us more productive in His Kingdom. In John 10;10, Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy.” Satan wants to distract our attention from Jesus, kill our devotion to Him, and destroy the work of God in our lives. It really is true that being busy with “good things” can often crowd out “the best things.”
In Mark 11, Jesus and the disciples came upon a fig tree full of leaves; but when he sought fruit on it, He could find none. He cursed the tree, His only negative miracle. (Perhaps it professed more than it possessed?) When they next saw that tree, it had withered. “…every barren branch…he cuts.”
A song by Mrs. H. S. Lehman that we learned years ago comes to mind as I write this:
“The Master is seeking a harvest of souls He’s redeemed by His blood; He seeks for the fruit of the Spirit and works that will glorify God. Nothing but leaves for the Master! O, how His loving heart grieves When, instead of the fruit He is seeking, we offer Him nothing but leaves.”
God’s pruning hook touches only the branch of His caring, and for only one purpose: to enable us to bear the fruit we were created to bring forth. While He loves us just as we are, He loves us too much to leave us as we are! Hallelujah!
Another way of looking at pruning appears in Hebrews 12:7, 11: “Bear what you have to bear as ‘chastening’—as God’s dealing with you as sons. Now obviously no ‘chastening’ seems pleasant at the time; it is in fact most unpleasant. Yet when it is all over we can see that it has quietly produced the fruit of real goodness in the character of those who have accepted it.” (Phillips)
In sports or exercise, the phrase, “No pain, no gain,” has become a byword. Jesus warned that His disciple would experience tribulation. Then He added, “I have overcome the world.” I want to be an “over-comer,” too! Don’t you? SELAH!
Wayne & Ruth