Last year about this time, Jim, our friends, Kirk and Diana and I attended a “pruning” seminar. We visited long time friends, Grant and Jean Hartman, who own an arboretum, and learned the finer points of pruning. Well…Kirk and Jim learned the finer points while Diana and I sat inside the warm house. So I can’t say that a lesson in pruning came my way that day.
But for the past week, Jim and Dave have been pruning our Linden tree. The trunk of the tree is beginning to split from the ice storm last year and desperately needed relief from some of the heavier branches and limbs. I have observed the better part of this operation through the window in our den. When I did go outside to look at the tree, I was shocked by how much was gone. You see, this old tree is the source of great comfort and shade in the hot summer months. If you have ever sat on our deck in the middle of the day, sun bearing down and heat around ninety five degrees, you know that it is a good ten degrees cooler under the shade of our tree. It stands approximately forty feet tall and has a diameter larger than that. It’s like having a canopy over the deck. Well, it was.
Today as I was helping Jim cut up some of the smaller branches, he pointed out to me a branch that he had pruned in the past. This branch had been about four inches in diameter and now, at the point he had pruned it, it had a knot that was about five inches in diameter and several new limbs growing from it. I noticed that the tree, while somewhat bare, already looked better, like it was standing taller without all the extra weight pulling on it.
Since I opted out of standing in the cold and learning about pruning, I thought I would look up some information on it. The first thing I came across was the definition. Here are some of the various meanings: the practice of cutting away an unwanted, unnecessary, or undesirable part; to remove diseased or injured parts; to influence growth and to increase fruit yield.
So in order to maintain a healthy tree or plant, you must prune it. It’s not something the plant can do on its own. It doesn’t spontaneously drop a limb that is diseased or growing in the wrong place. It doesn’t shed unnecessary branches so that the ones remaining will be more productive. It needs help because it can not do it on its own.
My spiritual life is like our Linden tree. There are many areas in my life that have been “pruned” over time. Areas of sin and habits that were unhealthy. Areas of distraction that were keeping me from growing. At times, I have allowed God to “prune” and shape me. Other times, my need for control has prevented me from letting go of my sin and my growth has been stunted.
Each time an area of concern comes to the surface, it’s painful. But allowing God to remove it from me and help me heal, makes me stronger and ready to grow in my walk. In order to grow, I must allow God to remove any parts that keep me from being fruitful for him.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. -John 15