Recently, I’ve spent some time at a greenhouse. I spent time watching and participating in the weeding, trimming, and pruning of all different types of plants, shrubs, and flowers. I’ve learned much about the importance of weeding and trimming and pruning. It is for the health of the plant that it is trimmed and pruned. Dead pieces are pulled off, weeds which suck the nutrients from the soul and plot to destroy the plant and removed, and the plant itself is directed in the right direction in which it needs to grow.
This pruning and trimming and weeding got me to thinking about what Jesus says in John 15.
“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.” John 15:1-2
This verse always used to mean to me to stay close to God in Jesus or else. If you don’t stay close you’ll get cut off. But after watching and actively participating in weeding, trimming, and pruning, I’ve begun to have a new appreciation for these verses. It’s not mean to prune a branch from a plant that isn’t bearing fruit or flower. In fact, it helps it grow stronger, bigger, fuller. Pruning and trimming is an act of love towards the plant though it must be done in such a way that at first seems and looks like it harms the plant. In fact at times it seems counter intuitive.
For example, in pruning, sometimes you cut off new growth and pretty flowers. That doesn’t seem right. The plant is growing, why? Why cut these off. They look nice and it seems like it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. Ahhh, but there’s something important in cutting new growth and pretty flowers–sometimes they aren’t growing in the right direction. Sometimes they are growing in such a way that makes it bad for the plant.
I began to wonder more about weeding, trimming, and pruning. The weeding part make sense, lots of sense. The bad parts need to be removed. They are hurting the plant. But the trimming and pruning, why? I learned something from the clematis plant, the wild sunflower, and the bonsai tree.
The wild sunflower doesn’t need pruning nor trimming. In fact, some consider the wild sunflower to be a weed. Yet when it grows, it grows big and strong and great. It’s beauty shines when it is with a whole patch of wild sunflowers. At the same time, it needs no pruning nor trimming. It just is. And it exists.
But the clematis plant (a vine plant with pretty flowers) and the bonsai tree are different. They need constant care. Unlike the wild sunflower, these two plants are planted with care and intentionality. The plant is placed where it is at with intention, attention, and a desire for existence. The clematis can be a wiry annoyance. I’ve learned this in trying to prune and trim the blasted thing. Yet it also needs support, it needs a trellis and direction. I learned that I have a variation of clematis in my backyard. For the last four years it has annoyed me. It hasn’t stayed on the trellis, it winds its way through the back yard. I now know I need to trim it, care for it, prune it, direct it. When spring eventually comes (it’s mid April and on Sunday we had an ice storm), it will need direction to grow properly and healthily.
The same is true with bonsai trees. They need constant pruning and trimming. But more than that, there is something important about focused trimming and pruning of the bonsai tree. According to Bonsai Tree Gardener (.net), a properly kept, trimmed, and pruned tree will keep it’s shape for decades. One of the oldest bonsai trees is said to be over 500 years old. But it takes patience, time, energy, and loving care to keep the bonsai tree where it needs to be.
Going back to John 15, I began to see the importance of the other words Jesus tells His disciples:
“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:5, 8
God weeds, trims, and prunes in order for those who belong to Jesus to bear fruit. What is this fruit? The fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). The biggest of these that Jesus is talking about is love. When we bear the fruit of love, we show that we are His disciples. More than that, when we remain in Him, we grow. We grow in the way and direction in which he desires us to.
It’s hard to grow. It’s hard to allow God to shape us and prune us. And for some there is more trimming, shaping, and pruning than others. Just as the clematis is different from the wild sunflower and the sunflower different from the bonsai tree, so each person who remains in Jesus is different.
Where might you be right now in the trimming and pruning process? Allow God to be at work in you. But also remain in Jesus, live with Him daily. Allow God to prune you, weed you, trim you into who He intends you to be. He is doing so out of loving care, focusing on you each moment as He desires you to focus on Him.