“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… 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 15:1-2,4 (NLT)
The tree service truck was parked in front of the house when Jake got home from Grandma’s. He remembered Mom talking about needing to prune the fruit trees but didn’t think they would be here this soon. In fact, he was wondering my Mom had them pruned at all. They had had lots of plums, pears and apples last season. Seemed to him that cutting off some of the branches would destroy the fruit.
The late afternoon sun was high in the sky as Jake stepped out the back door. The tree service guys had been busy! The backyard was littered with branches from the trees that lined the fence in the back. Jake couldn’t believe how many branches there were.
He stepped around the branch piles to look at the trees. There were large gaping holes where branches had once hung. In fact, even though he had grown several inches this year, Jake could no longer reach up to even touch one of the branches, let alone pluck some ripe fruit toward summer’s end. It seemed like the trees would never be the same.
Jake spoke with the tree service guys who told him that pruning the trees would produce more fruit, not less. They explained that when there were too many branches all together, hanging low to the ground, the fruit couldn’t get sunshine or have room to grow. The trees had to be pruned at just the right time, using sharp tools made specifically for the job. Sometimes they used the larger saw to take down big branches. A handsaw was used for the smaller pieces. And for those pieces that required a gentle touch, a long pair of nippers was used.
The men explained that the some of the trees had diseased or insect-infested branches that had to come off. Sometimes pruning came about from circumstances, like the heavy winds they had experienced last month. Branches had broken off because of the wind and those branches had to be removed. Removing the broken branches made the tree stronger.
Jake thought about the pruning and remembered how Mom had spoken about the Lord pruning her during the time Dad was away. She said that the Lord was removing the things in her life that were dead or not right so that the good parts could grow. She told him the Lord knew just the right tools to use and just the right time to use them.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12 (NLT)
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Romans 5:6 (NLT)
Jake knew that, like the fruit trees along the fence line, his family, too, was being pruned. Circumstances had come into their lives that had damaged some of the branches. But he also knew that once those damaged branches had been taken care of, the family would have a chance to heal and grow stronger now that God was in the midst of them. He knew that the pruning was necessary for their family tree so that it would produce greater fruit and be able to withstand any storm. It gave Jake great comfort to know that he and his family were connected with God, just as each branch of a tree is connected to the trunk. And it gave him hope that all this pruning would turn out for good.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing… But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!” John 15:5,7 (NLT)
A Stander in Nebraska