One night, my neighbor and I stood in her front yard and shone her little flashlight on the apple whips. It was only 7pm but already dark. The temperature was plummeting. I’d promised to show her how to prune the fruit tree in front of her house, but it was late before I’d gotten to her.
We shivered in the darkness, and without good lighting, resorted to feeling the hard, cold buds along the branches. One of the sides of the tree was elongated, oddly shaped with a jutting branch that she had been too afraid to prune back last winter. In the summer, the uncut branch put out several twigs that hung over the lawn, making mowing underneath difficult.
“Feel this bud. Do you see how branches will come outward in both directions if you cut here?” I showed her the little protrusions. “Just cut it back; it will reward you with a good shape.”
“I’m not sure I have the courage to cut so far back.” She sighed and pointed to another joint about a foot further up the branch, “I think I may cut only to here, and then perhaps that will be enough. If not, can I cut it again next year?”
Sure, I thought. You could, but every year the branch grows thicker and the trauma of the cut is greater. Why not just trim it back early on, rather than letting it put out whips that have to be cut completely back.
The evening reminded me of how much pruning God does. He lets me cooperate to the extent that I decide. Sometimes things that should be lopped off have been left to grow and bother those around me. I resist the hard cut-back, worrying that too much of me will disappear and I will be unrecognizable and ugly. What if I never recover and I am stunted in that area? What if an important part of me is taken away forever?
Like on Kathy’s tree, God lets nature have its way. When I resist the loving hands that wield the scissors I find all kinds of stray growths poking out of me. I become an asymmetrical, misshapen life, far removed from the symmetry and wholeness of God’s plan for me.
In John 10, Jesus talked about His Father as the husbandman who would prune away dead growth. He allowed His life to be shaped, and achieved what He was sent to do: “I do nothing on my own, but I only do what the Father tells me."
Lord, give me the courage to submit to the hard cuts and skillful trimmings under Your hand, knowing You will shape me into a useful and beautiful design. Amen.
Questions: Why does God allow pain and disappointments come into our lives? How is God in the process of pruning your life today?