Orchard and vineyard caretakers have to be familiar with pruning their crops. Otherwise, each consecutive year will end up yielding less and less harvest from the plants that get older and older. The principle behind the pruning process is rooted (excuse the arboreal pun...) in the concept of shaping how a tree develops and grows throughout its life. When new branches and buds grow, the tips (called the apical meristems) produce natural growth hormone, causing the cells in that region to divide, as well as stopping cell division further down the branch. So, to make more potentially fruit-bearing branches and buds, arborists cut off sections of the plant at different junctions to force more branching. This way, every year a new spread of buds will form, producing the optimum amount of fruit on strong, healthy branches.
By now, you're probably wondering how I'm going to draw a spiritual perspective out of this. Well, before you ask, [insert succinct and pertinent segue here]. A disciple of Jesus Christ named John writes an account of Jesus speaking the following words: "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, and I will 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." (John 15:1-4, NIV)
For us to bear fruit in our lives, we have to trust that the Master Gardener knows how best we can grow, and that when He "prunes" us, He does so with the goal of our fruitfulness in mind. And now, please allow me to briefly mention something important here. The original word that John wrote that we now translate as "prune" (or "purge" in other versions) is the Greek word kathairo. It's a verb that means to cleanse of filth or impurity. In context, the word is pretty accurately translated as prune, but I just tend to be intrigued by the wording of Bible passages as they were two thousand years ago. The only thing I would point out is how important it is to realize that when God prunes us, He is removing everything that is disgusting, corrupt, and undesirable from our very being.
Here's the gist of what I hope you get from the past few minutes of reading this blog...that we can respond to God's pruning of our lives by incorporating several habits. In a very practical sense, getting pruned looks like this: being open and receptive to God's message, as well as to the people and events that focus you on God, to the challenges (both to you personally and to your fellowship) that purify us, and to the times in our lives when things that distract us are taken away. Sound familiar? It should, because it's the same reason that farmers take away pieces and lengths of a fruit tree or a grape vine; to allow the plant to redirect its energy into buds that will bear more fruit in the future, by purging the plant of bad branches.
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Author's note: These particular thoughts of mine were stirred by my dad, when I was home for President's Day weekend.