I spend a lot of time pruning fruit trees and bushes. While I was tending my small orchard, I started to see God’s hand in my life reflected in the act of pruning.
When a gardener prunes, first she must look the plant over, inspecting the overall form and the growth of every branch. Sun and air must be able to reach every branch and thus every fruit. The inspection goes quickly for a well-tended plant, but longer if more work is to be done. How, the gardener wonders, can I make this tree bear as much as possible for as long as possible? The gardener must study the plant carefully before and after every cut.
Then, the actual pruning starts. Shoots growing straight up out of a limb are all removed. They suck the strength out of a tree, block sun and air, and rarely bear. Doesn’t that sound like sinful habits? It’s great if God can somehow lop them off and get them out of our life.
Then crossing branches must go. There can be two lovely, strong, healthy branches, but if they cross, the gardener must choose one to remove. To choose, the gardener has to predict the way the branches will grow in years to come. Will one go on to shade another branch, to cross another, to droop too far when loaded with fruit? Then that branch must go, and it often must be cut at its base. But the branch doesn’t know why it is removed, and truly, it did nothing wrong. The gardener, however, can see that removal will improve the plant. While removing such a branch, I can see many times in my life when God removed something, and I thought it was so unfair and unnecessary. Now, I can look at my life and be thankful that God let the better branch live for me.
Tree branches want to grow up, but they need to be spread out, again to get that sun and air. So, a gardener can attach weights to branches to get them to spread. These burdens have to be placed carefully so as not to break the branch with too much weight. The weight is moved as the branch goes from 20 to 45 to nearly 90 degrees. The weights stay through storms and through winter, sometimes for six months and sometimes for two years. Have you ever carried a burden and later realized that the carrying opened you up to be a better person?
Throughout the pruning, a gardener must step back, over and over, to look at the whole plant, because each change effects the rest of the plant. I think that if I can observe the needs of a plant, surely God sees what we need. Know that God the gardener is studying you, deciding what to remove from your life and what to add so that you bear good fruit, fruit that will last.