As I’ve said before, I work at a local organic farm for part of the year, where we depend on a certain yield from each crop. Ever since they introduced me to farming, I see references to growth and gardening everywhere. Only now I’m beginning to know what they mean!
Every spring, one of our tasks is a kind of pruning. In the seed trays where new seedlings are sprouting up, there are often two plants growing side by side. We have to evaluate which is the stronger of the two, and uproot and discard the second seedling. At first I didn’t see why they were asking me to uproot a perfectly good baby plant, the poor little thing! But I was told that this process gives to the one seedling all the nutrients available in the soil, making it a stronger plant and overall, a healthier crop. It’s a similar philosophy to pruning trees and shrubs, so the spring growth will be focused and growing in the right direction.
Jesus often talked of gardening as well, in terms that make sense to me now. “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.” (From John 15)
Did you notice in the passage above that it’s the fruit bearing branches that are being pruned? And the purpose? So that we’ll be stronger, and in the end, more fruitful. What does it mean to be fruitful? I see it as a by-product of a life abiding, resting or hidden in Christ. The first fruit is our growth in Christlikeness. It’s our work in his inner kingdom, our hearts. Every exterior action and service flows out of this.
Have you ever felt like you were being pruned? Like God was removing unnecessary things, or showing you something you needed to let go of? Maybe he’s brought to light something dear to you, and you haven’t worked your way through that yet. Maybe you’ve chosen to self-prune, to give up something for Lent as an experiment in doing without. Have you seen strength come from this process? Whether pruning is our choice or God’s, there is intention and purpose in his selective shaping.
Today’s prayer practice: Listening to Scripture
Reread the passage above about the vine. In what ways might God want to prune and shape you? How might pruning impact your compassion for others? What do you think it looks like to remain in him? Is there anything getting in your way of being present to God or to others? What do you need to do to be more rooted to the vine? What is his invitation to you?