Yesterday, while at Mom’s in Connecticut, I looked out at the backyard to see the pin oak which, on my last visit, lost a number of lower branches to sweat and saw.
You see, pin oak branches like to grow downward. So, to remove the one that is brushing your head with leaves as you walk underneath, you have to go 20 feet high for the pruning operation.
If oaks – or a myriad of other plants – could talk, they’d complain mightily about the pruning. Who wants to have branches cut off – attachments that are part of your living fabric suddenly, even violently, removed by an outside force? What’s that all about?
Gardeners and husbandmen the world over have always known that pruning is necessary to keep plants healthy and to make them optimally productive. Not everything that grows out of a plant is worthwhile – some branches are poorly placed, some are diseased, some need to be sacrificed so that others grow stronger. I love driving past vineyards, with their orderly rows of vines producing great quantities of grapes. That level of health and productivity is no accident – someone is actively pruning those vines to get the best yield.
Here’s how Jesus put it, in the Gospel of John chapter 15: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
Today’s trials and pains and losses, for those “in the vine,” may be perplexingly troubling and feel like raw wounds. But there is more going on than random slashes of the blade. Pruning hurts, even when it is done in love, but the goal is health and productivity. Only a sicko looks forward to going under the surgeon’s knife, and feeling the aftermath. But the alternative is much worse.
Have your prunes today. Grimace if you must, but be thankful. The vinedresser is at work.