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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.

-John 15:2

A hard freeze. This winter’s extended temperature drop had some immediate effects. Some pipes burst, some neighbors had flooding, people were cold, charities took extra precautions to help the homeless. Soon the sun’s warmth ended the freeze and life went on. Come spring time, though, the effects of this cold snap became truly evident. Where once bushes were green and bushy, their bare limbs poked out sparsely. There just wasn’t as much green as there usually is at the same time of year. Spring was not at all the same. While it was still beautiful, there was lots missing. Where there was once life, there were just dead branches.

As much as it pains me to reduce the size of my garden plants, my experience tells me pruning is the only way to sustain life. A plant trying to revive its extended dead limbs can’t give any energy to the part that is still living. It is only in the cutting off that we can save the good that remains and encourage new growth. Jesus was a master of using examples people understood to make his point. In his time, when there were no grocery stores, everyone clearly understood the value of pruning to bring new fruit. Sometimes when we are in a season of abundance, we don’t see how cutting back can be beneficial. However, Jesus, as our perfect vine dresser, tells us that every branch which bears fruit needs to be pruned in order to bear more fruit. Is there a place in your life you may need to cut back in order to force new growth to occur? Is there something to let go of which could leave time or room for something better?

When we are in a season of lack, we often think it is because we are not doing enough. Perhaps this season is just waiting for the new growth to take effect. If we have been pruned back, it is for a reason. Instead of wishing this valuable time away, could we instead pause and take note of where new life is forming? It almost brought me to tears to prune my largest hydrangea bushes this spring. Last year I had months of blooms to enjoy both outside and inside. I can see new green leaves at the base of the plants. However, I know they will not be as big this year or as flourishing as they were last summer. They have been so large, I have been unable to really give them a good pruning. This was the year. As I enjoy the smaller flowers this summer, I will try to remember to look forward to the abundance that will come in future summers because of the cutting back.

I imagine if I can be sad over pruning my plants, how much more Jesus has compassion for us, as he sees where we need to be pruned. But also, just as I look forward to the new blooms, I feel certain he does as well.

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