Pruning (v): The targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, overgrown, or otherwise unwanted tissue of a plant, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.
Pruning is a difficult but necessary process and I’ve had to do some pruning recently. And though it was a painful process, once the branch had been snipped, I felt a tremendous amount of freedom and relief. The reality is that endings are as necessary as beginnings!
Pruning serves several purposes. It is necessary to improve or maintain health. Pruning increases the quantity or improves the quality of the fruit being produced. Finally, pruning improves the overall strength of the plant or tree so it can withstand nature’s storms. Here’s what is interesting about pruning: it isn’t always about cutting away that which is already dead, often it requires trimming away branches and buds that are very much alive.
We often have to cut away the good in our lives, maybe even some of the better things in our lives, in order to make room for the best things in life. It can be difficult to say no to the things that are not good in our life. It is even MORE difficult to say no to things that seem good! This is especially difficult to do when so much of our identity tends to come from the things we give our time and energy to. It is difficult to allow God to prune away those things that seem to define us and bring worth and value to our lives!
However, God is the master gardener and longs for us to reach our full potential, which takes pruning. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (John 15:1-4) Look at verse two in the above passage, “He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.”
God is not satisfied with our current production or our current growth. He loves us as we are but desires to make us better. As master gardener, He is constantly trimming and pruning our branches in order to improve our health, increase the fruit we produce, and make us stronger to withstand life’s storms. The process may be painful at times. We may have to let go of branches we’ve grown to love. We have to allow God to strip us of the familiar and we have to be willing to step out into the unknown. This takes trusting that God really does know what is best and believing that he knows exactly which branches to snip. And when we finally give up control and allow God to prune us, we find that the process, although painful, is also beautiful.
It is often said that all good things must come to an end, and allowing God to prune those things in His timing frees us up to move onto greater things. It is possible to end well. It is possible to give thanks for the purpose the branches and buds served at the time and to let them go when the time comes knowing that new buds and branches will replace them.
So, what areas of your life need pruning? Where is God longing to trim back some branches and create space for better fruit? Where is God longing to cut out dead branches so new growth can come forth? What branches feel weak and need to be removed so you can become stronger? Are you ready to release whatever God asks of you and trust that he is a good gardener and wants to replace the good with something great?