Sunday, June 5, 2011

Pruning Creates More Beauty

Published in the Charleston Gazette~Mail Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shortly after a tree service had severely pruned a large tree in our yard, leaving it looking like a giant multi-tined fork reaching straight for the sky, our young granddaughter came for a visit and was devastated.  She asked, “Why did you ruin that beautiful tree?”

The tree had become too tall, was misshapen and large limbs were starting to drop during strong winds and thunderstorms. We felt it was time to either remove it altogether or prune it and hope for a healthier tree next season. Trusting the advice of the tree man, we decided to prune.  It would be worth tolerating its rather odd looking shape for the rest of this season knowing the end result would be a safer, better looking tree next spring.

But trying to explain to my granddaughter that pruning is good for the tree was futile. To her, it made no sense to make something that is already beautiful, ugly on purpose so it will be beautiful again later.  To help her understand, I accessed the Internet, found pertinent information and, together, we took a crash course on the benefits of pruning trees and shrubs. Here are some things we learned:

“Pruning should be a regular part of all tree and shrub maintenance programs. Proper pruning involves the selective removal of plant parts, which reshapes the tree, allowing sunlight to get to all fruit-bearing branches.  The size and quality of the fruit will be increased and new fruit is more likely to develop.  Over time, the tree becomes stronger, more attractive and is no longer a danger to property as it may have been before.”

After our little session, my granddaughter felt better and vowed she would be watching the tree to see if it actually does start to become more attractive and healthier as a result of pruning.

Problem solved.

It would have been impossible to guide my granddaughter through this learning experience about pruning without remembering John 15:1, in which Jesus tells His disciples, “I am the true vine and my Father is the Vinedresser. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes.”

In his book, Secrets of the Vine, Bruce Wilkinson explains, “Our Father, the Vinedresser is guided by the same principles as the expert pruner. To make room for the kind of abundance He created us for, He must first cut away parts of our lives that drain precious time and energy from what’s truly important.  God asks you to let go of things that keep you from His kingdom purposes and your ultimate good.  He cuts off every branch that bears no fruit.  Every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  (John 15:2)  If your life consistently bears no fruit, God will intervene to discipline you.”

Perhaps just as important as being disciplined and pruned is what Jesus says in Verse 5: “I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me, you can do nothing.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

Abide means to remain; to stay closely connected.  When we spend time with our Lord, we are strengthened and refreshed to do His work.  Abiding helps us to sense God’s leading; we learn to recognize His still small voice.

Jesus goes on to say, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; then gathered and thrown into the fire, and burned.”

The point Jesus is making is this: If you are not abiding, you wither and die and become of no spiritual use. But if you draw close to Him and remain there, nothing can hold you back from attaining the most abundant life possible.