On Sunday afternoon, being such a nice day, Amy decided to clean out our landscaping. After a time I decided to join her, and we cleaned out leaves, sticks, and other debris that had cluttered it after the winter. We also did some pruning. The bushes and shrubs that grow leave behind a "skeleton" and we needed to trim those down so the new growth could be seen. Amy used some shears, however I took the approach of breaking off branches and, in some cases, pulling the dead sticks from the ground. They had rotted away from the root and could easily be taken out without hurting the plant.
"See, Ame. Easy. I just- oops." And it happened. I pulled off part of the new growth with the dead branch.
"What happened?" inquired Amy.
"Maybe my method doesn't work so well," I replied.
Last night at Bible study we looked at John 15 where Jesus talks to His disciples about the true vine. Verse 2 was a point of particular emphasis as we looked at this chapter. Jesus says," Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes..." I get that. Useless branch, cut it off. Makes sense. But here is the second part of the same verse, "and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit." This gives a reason to pause.
If I AM producing fruit God will prune me, meaning cut off parts of me, so that I will be able to produce MORE fruit. This goes back to the vineyard keepers. They expertly cut away at the branches of the vines so that they will grow toward the sun, and that the branches they leave behind may grow in such a way that they get a greater harvest. They never prune in a way that will harm the plant. When you watch it may look like they are killing it, but it is done in such a way that it allows for a greater abundance for the plant.
In my mind I have to apply this to my world. (I have never worked in a vineyard, and you already read of my pruning skills.) In parenting, in teaching, in coaching I am never content with my children, my students, or my players. No matter how great they think they are, how much they think they have improved, or become self-satisfied that they are as good as they can be, I always want to push them to be better. I "prune" away thoughts of self-satisfaction and areas where they become lazy or creep into bad habits. This has to be done as a skilled "pruner" or they will not listen and sometimes even revolt against it.
God is the same way with us. He doesn't want us thinking we have ever "arrived" or that we are able to do this on our own or slip back into the people we were before we met Him. So He "prunes" the branches. He cuts off those areas where we may have been successful, but He has a greater plan for us to bear fruit by growing a different branch. In these moments we cannot pull away, but instead let the vineyard keeper do His work knowing in the end He does it for our good and His glory.
And, thankfully, He is better at it than I am.