Our house is part of a development that was built in a former orchard in the late 1980s. For some reason there was one apple tree that was not cut down to make space for the houses. That tree is in our garden where it provides shade in the summer and far too many apples for our family most years.
I am not a tree surgeon, but I have a fire-fighter friend called Mike who used to work for one. Last week Mike applied his expertise to our apple tree, which hasn’t been pruned for at least three years. When Mike had finished pruning there seemed to be a lot more light in the garden, and a lot more light in the rooms at the back of our home.
Pruning was a lot of work, perhaps more than it should have been because it hasn’t been done regularly. It took me another day to cut the offcuts into smaller pieces, followed by seven trips to the recycling centre to dispose of all that had been removed from the apple tree. When I looked at the growing pile of wood in the garden I remembered what Jesus said about pruning:
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” (John 15:1-6 NLT)
Several things occurred to me after the pruning of our apple tree:
- Pruning needs to take place regularly.
- Pruning is hard work, but is a labour of love.
- Pruning our apple tree has released a significant amount of additional light into our small garden.
- The apple tree looks a lot better for being pruned.
- Although the branches that were removed can never bear fruit again, the ones that remain will bear fruit for many years to come.
That helps me make sense of what Jesus said about God trimming branches:
- He does it lovingly even though it is hard work.
- He needs to do it regularly.
- When He has finished the vine looks a lot healthier and the Light shines through it.
- If the vine remains healthy then there should be a good harvest.
- Jesus didn’t just turn water into fine wine at Cana in Galilee. He uses His transforming power in a similar way to transform all of His followers when they surrender to the Father’s secateurs.
I don’t know if the apple trees feel pain but I know for a fact that while God’s pruning of the grapevine may seem painful at the time, the benefits are eternal.