The cold grasp of winter is losing its grip and being overpowered by the warm embrace of spring. My yard has transformed from brown to green, and the eery stillness has morphed into buzzing insects and the smell of freshly-cut grass. Evenings spent near the fireplace have become sunny outings in the garden planting veggies and pulling weeds. Spring is a favorite time of year for many reasons, one of which is gardening.
One of the many required tasks to help a garden thrive is pruning. I recently grabbed the shears and went through the row of onions cutting the newly developed seed pods on the top of the plants. Then, I went to each tomato plant and cut off side shoots and “suckers.” If I don’t prune these unnecessary growths, they will take nutrients and energy that would otherwise go to developing bigger fruit and healthier plants. While cutting off parts of the plant may look like I’m destroying it, I’m actually working towards its health and improving its ability to thrive. I know precisely which parts to cut off.
The Master Gardener
Jesus teaches in John 15, “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.”
For reasons I cannot comprehend, the Lord has a plan for my life to bring glory to his name. He takes a wretched sinner like me, gives me a new heart, and then begins the life-long process of sanctification. He intends to use all his children to carry out the works he has prepared for us to do, for we are his workmanship (Eph. 2:10). To be fruitful branches, we must abide in the Vine for sustenance (John 15:4). However, like the growths that occur on my tomato plants, sin and unnecessary weight (Heb. 12:1) threatens to distract and keep us from abiding in Christ. Therefore, the Master Gardener gets his shears and begins to cut away.
Such pruning hurts and I’d much rather avoid it. I see the Lord pruning through the everyday challenges, and I feel the shears pressing in when the demands of life seem too much to bear. When bank accounts are red, relationships feel like war, and expectations are tossed like paper plates after dinner, it may very well be the Lord snipping away. He’s cutting out my impatience by putting me in situations I can’t control. He’s chipping away at my anger through children who don’t always obey. Difficult people in my life are perhaps the very shears God is using to prune the unloving growths in my heart. Knowing that the Lord is using such difficulties to prune me provides long-term hope, but it sure is painful in the moment. There are times the Lord keeps clipping and I’m not sure how much more I can bear. I don’t always see the beauty in the midst of it because being pruned often feels like you’re under attack.
But I know an experienced gardener doesn’t prune the plant to hurt it, but to help it flourish. Because I desire more tomatoes and larger onions, I make the necessary cuts now. Likewise, the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5) are brought about by the needed cuts of our Master Gardener. At times, the Lord’s pruning is beyond our understanding and many of his way are mysterious. Whether we understand or not, our call is to trust. We are not always aware of the unfruitful areas of our heart, but the Lord who knows the very hairs on our head also knows exactly where the pruning is needed. So he keeps cutting.
The beauty of it is that if the Lord continues to prune, then he hasn’t given up on us. Dead or fruitless plants are pulled up and thrown in the compost pile, not pruned. Each cut, though it hurts, is a reminder of the Lord’s gracious work in our lives and the truth that he will continue the work he began in us (Phil. 1:6). He’s still working in his children to bear fruit for his glory; His cuts are not flippant and unnecessary, but precise and needed. The Master Gardener knows exactly what he is doing.