We sometimes refer to them as “the little things in life”. Or maybe one of those things “money can’t buy”. I could make a long list of those and I’m sure you could as well. But this time of year- that is winter time- I long for simply sitting on the front porch at night when the temperature is warm and an occasional scent of petunias or honeysuckle or roses add incredible ambience to the experience..
As you can see in the picture, our Knockout roses really showed out last summer. What a testament to God’s creative handiwork! And the Day lilies certainly performed their part extremely well, too.
But, it’s January and yesterday I decided it was time to prune the rose bushes. I do not enjoy pruning rose bushes. Especially since I am such an amateur gardener. How much should be removed? What branches need to be left alone? Will this damage or, worse, kill the plant? What will my neighbor say if they turn brown, shrivel and die? Let me say it again, I do not enjoy pruning those rose bushes. Sure, we could replace these two at a local nursery. But these were planted when we first moved into this house and keeping “these” plants is important to me.
Those anxious thoughts reminded me of an event during my first year as a veterinary student. The experience highlighted the fragility involved in dealing with living things and that we can do harm if we are not very careful. Thankfully, the incident involved one of my fellow students and not me, but it was abundantly clear how this could have been any one of us. It was very early on during our first quarter in vet school and we were taking blood samples from laboratory rats. This is accomplished by holding the rat in one hand and snipping the tip of the tail with the other. My fellow neophyte vet student accidentally held on too tight and for too long. You guessed it, didn’t you? His first patient expired right there in his hand. Of course we all gave him grief for a while, but the lesson was learned by all. And yes, pruning plants has the potential of unintended harm.
Here is a picture of my beloved rose bushes after the pruning process.
If you search for benefits of pruning, you will find something along the lines of, “pruning is done to improve a plants production”. In the case of roses, the production, of course, refers to beautiful, fragrant, healthy, pleasing blooms throughout the spring, summer and fall months. Oh my, how I do hope for bountiful results. Am I done for the year? No, because if there are lot of new branches and blooms, this summer another pruning will be necessary in order to allow the plant to reach its full potential.
Jesus taught the disciples a truth about their relationship with Him by comparing His followers to branches on a vine. You can read what He said in John 15. Part of what He taught them (and His followers today) is that the Vinedresser or the Gardener must prune the branches. You see the gardener in this parable is God the Father. We must be pruned for the same reason plants require pruning. The reason for our pruning is so we will be improved and produce fruit, more fruit and lots of fruit. Yes, pruning involves removing dead branches. But it also involves removing productive branches so that the greatest production can be reached. Just as my rose bushes must go through pruning, we as Jesus’ followers require pruning from time to time. You see, pruning is not a form of punishment. It is rather a loving work designed to enable the “branches” to produce maximum fruit. Aren’t we grateful the Gardener is no amateur like me? He knows precisely when and what to prune. We can be confident His pruning will cause no harm. Obviously He can use any “tool” He chooses, but surely one of his favorites is His Word. And, He has no need to wait and hope for the results because He already knows exactly what the fruit will be even before it grows on the vine. You can read a sneak preview of some of the fruit we will produce in Galatians 5: 22-23.
How has God used His Word or some circumstance in your life to lovingly prune your walk with Him?