When my husband comes out of the garage armed with clippers and a ladder, I know what’s coming. It’s that time of year again – time to prune the fruit trees. It hardly seems fair to choose winter for pruning. The poor trees are already stripped of everything that gives them worth and warmth. They’re barren and exposed.
With the skill of a surgeon’s hand, he trims each fruit bearing branch. Some, it seems to me – way too far.
I hate pruning. I’m always certain the tree won’t be able to recover from such brutality. And I don’t like the dreariness it brings. There’s nothing pretty about the brittle, stubby, sawed off limbs – nothing useful or lovely.
Pruning reminds me we’re headed into a long period of monotonous waiting. As a cloak of gray replaces the vibrant colors of summer, silence claims the inhospitable branches.
Unlike me, trees have no choice about pruning. They don’t have legs, or a will.
When I see pruning shears approaching I can choose to run away or resist them altogether. Often times I try to negotiate a better plan. I have choices within my prune-able circumstances.
A couple nights ago we were awakened at midnight by a loud scream and a bang when our neighbor’s car crashed into (and on top of) our front porch. The runaway car destroyed all the railings around the porch, chipped the deck and took out four camellia trees. Thankfully no one was hurt.
When I looked out the front door to survey the damages I saw him. There, along with our distraught neighbor, was my Heavenly Gardener. He carried his pruning shears.
Our bruised house and the ugly mess already challenged me. How could I allow him to trim the deeper places? His clippers rested on my self-centered heart. He wanted to clip the spindly branches of pride, judgement and of self protection.
To be pruned would be my choice – a hard choice. I didn’t like what I saw.
The exposure of my own emotions was grayer and colder than my wintery surroundings. My brittle branches were raw and inhospitable. Shame and vulnerability surfaced as he clipped and cut. I was challenged to drop the branches I thought gave me strength and stability. I was being called to embrace humility and grace.
Today I’m still pondering this winter scene. I yearn for signs of new life and fruit. And yet I know he’s a good gardener. His timing is perfect and his severing gentle and purposeful. Winter will pass – spring will surely come – and so will more pruning.
I have his promise, “Jesus is the true vine, and his 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. If I remain in him and he in me, I will bear much fruit; apart from him, I can do nothing.” John 15:1-5