A few years ago, my husband and I moved out of our charming little 700 square foot house with a petite yard in the middle of town to a house three times its size on four acres out in the country. I would tell you this was a huge adjustment, but that probably goes without saying. There were a lot of aspects of the house and the land that simply needed some TLC, and slowly but surely, our home is getting the care it deserves. We are learning how to take care of this place we love so dearly.
With the coming of spring, nature bounces back to life. Grass grows, flowers bloom, leaves return to the trees. Can you just smell the honeysuckles in your mind when you picture it? It is beautiful and vibrant! …aaaaaand exhausting! Goodness, where can we find the time to keep up with all this yard work in the hustle and bustle of life, work, parenting and so on?
On a recent weekend, we were carving out time to catch up on overdue yard work. On our property, there is a row of trees. We noticed that one of the trees didn’t even look like a tree anymore. There was so much growth around it that it was difficult to identify which branches belonged to the actual, intended tree. Once we identified the original tree, we began to cut away the unwanted limbs.
When we started this undertaking of uncovering the actual tree, we didn’t know what kind of job we signed ourselves up for. Cutting away the excess and unnecessary branches turned out to be a pretty major undertaking. The hedge trimmer wasn’t enough; we needed the chain saw and several other tools, too. Some of the limbs were weighty and it took both of us to move them. We ran into briars and sharp pieces of wood.
When we finally finished unearthing the sweet little pear tree, we were exhausted. Sweating. Hungry. Thirsty. Scratched up and bleeding. Maybe a little cranky. And the poor little tree looked worse for the wear as well. Wow, we should have given our attention to this problem a long time ago. The tree was skinny, with leaves only at the highest points. There were no signs of bearing fruit. Clearly it was just trying to survive since all of these other plants began and continued growing up around it.
What happened here? Over time, weeds began to grow up around this tree. Gradually the weeds grew into thick trees that became more difficult to remove as time passed. But regardless, if the tree was going to survive and accomplish its intended purpose to bear fruit, the unwelcomed growth needed to be cut away.
At times, isn’t this tree an illustration of our lives and our walk with God? What things in our lives are growing up around us, stunting our growth? Keeping us from thriving? Detaining us in survival mode? Preventing us from accomplishing the purpose we were created for?
Jesus said the following: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2). Jesus used a real world example to explain how he removes suffocating things from our lives that keep us from fulfilling our purpose and bearing fruit. This applicable example allows us to understand what is going on when we are walking through a season of pruning. Pruning is not easy. It is not fun. Living things are being cut away. It is painful and exhausting, but it is necessary and valuable.
We pruned the branches around the pear tree about 6 weeks ago. I looked at it yesterday and noticed that new branches are springing up down its once bare trunk. Growing these branches will not happen overnight for the pear tree and the same is true in our lives, but be encouraged. New life will break through the barren areas. Growth will come, and it will be beautiful. Every branch that is cut off is not a loss. It will be replaced by joy, glory, righteousness and satisfaction.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.
Lord Jesus, we thank you that you take away all parts of us that keep us from living the abundant life you have designed us to live. With willingness, gratitude and expectation, we ask you to reveal to us the parts of our lives that do not bear fruit. Please give us the wisdom to understand what’s happening and the strength to praise you through the struggle of cutting away these parts of us. We trust you and we love you. In Your name, Amen.