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 does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:1-8 (ESV)Today, I resolved to begin working on the mess that is my yard, as I shared the other day. So, with pruning shears in hand, I set out into the wild desert that is my circle drive.
Not much grows on my land that isn't a cactus of some kind, but one of the items that does is known as Brittle Bush. It's, as you might expect, a very brittle and low growing bush. It's got a very unique silvered green leaf and a grey stem. In the Spring when we've had good rainfall the desert erupts all over with an abundance of yellow blooms from this unassuming little plant.
But, like with most flowers, when it shrivels it is considerably less beautiful. Usually, the stems, which shoot out about 8 inches from the plant, turn into something a bit like straw and they just stay there until something brushes passed with enough force to break them off.
In the case of those in my front yard, they are quite well intact. Last year being a good bloom, they are quite full of straw. An unpruned plant looks like this.
I looked out over the mass of unpruned plants and thought 'This could take a while!'. And I started in on the first one I came to. I'm asking myself as I proceed if this is worth the effort? I'm still not sure in this case whether it is or it isn't, but in the process, I learned a few things which I thought I'd share with you.
- Pruning is back-breaking work. It requires bending over and carefully examining the plant in question
- The gardener must be very patient, following each stem or branch to be pruned to it's original source if she wants an attractive result
- The gardener must be slow and methodical as she goes over the entire plant, not skipping any part.
- The gardener is often taking a risk of injury herself as a plant often will snag the gardeners hands as she does the work. This is especially true of the thorny plants like rose bushes.
- The gardener has to be aware not just of what she is pruning, but also what is around her so as not to injure herself or the plants that are around her.
- Sometimes the decision of what to cut off is a bit difficult as something can seem healthy but the gardener may realize that it will actually hinder the plants growth if she continues.
All this made me think of the way Jesus is with us as he prunes away the dead wood, that which isn't producing any sort of fruit or which makes us ugly. He must be patient and slow and methodical as he works. I may bleed a bit when He prunes me, just as a plant produces sap to cover over the pruned area. But I will heal and I will grow stronger in the end. And ultimately, it is Jesus, the Master Gardener who is doing the work of pruning, NOT ME, the plant.
The end result is a clearer version of the original. It's no longer defined by all that is hiding it, now it is defined by it's true self, the parts which are alive and healthy and are now ready to produce afresh.