Snip, snip, snip, pinch, pinch, pinch, and snap, snap, snap goes the labor of the pruner. With eyes sharply focused, seeking out every hidden dead head blossom, dry stock, or sucker branch, we weave our way through the garden. At times the work requires going deeper to remove unruly diseased leaves or branches that may require a total reshaping of the plant. This process may be so extreme, when fully pruned, the plant looks barren, striped of most greenery and a bit void of life. Ah, but when the plant blooms again, it produces an abundance of blossoms or fruit and is quite a glory to behold!
What is pruning? The Webster’s Dictionary definition says: to cut away what is unwanted or superfluous and to cut back parts of for better shape or more fruitful growth. How often is pruning needed? Frequently, to maintain shape and maximize growth, ultimately yielding abundant flowers, foliage and fruit.
In addition to living trees and plants, human beings need pruning too. In today’s world we are totally bombarded with all kind of issues, opportunities and distractions that easily entangle us into life diverting and unfruitful directions. And, if we won’t prune ourselves we may easily end up stunting our own growth.
Have we really looked in the mirror lately to take a good inventory of our lives? Do we need a bit of a spiff up? Maybe it’s time for a new hair style, beard trim or wardrobe update? Are our hearts and minds focused in a healthy direction, or are we caught up in excessive amounts of life’s distractions that entangle us in time sucking and unsatisfying commitments? Are we spending time with the right people? Are we reading (real literature, not only the sound bites that are posted on social media) to feed our mind and develop new knowledge and understanding? And, most importantly are we seeking God first in our lives for direction?
In John 15:2, Jesus says, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, he takes away: and every branch that continues to bear fruit, he repeatedly prunes, so that it will bear more fruit (even richer and finer fruit).”
Because God, the creator of all life, sees all things, knows all things, and loves us far more than we can understand, he wants, through a deep and personal relationship, to shape us into our highest and best level of performance. Jesus goes on to say “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” John 15:4
The pruning of our lives is similar to cleaning house, or purging out the garage or attic. It’s about letting go of what is no longer bringing service to our lives and opening up pathways for freer mobility. Surrendering to pruning brings new opportunities often beyond anything we ever imagined. The apostle Paul recorded this beautifully in Philippians 3: 13-14, “… one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
In the words of a recent statesman: “Prune — prune businesses, products, activities, people. Do it annually!” Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. Secretary of Defense.
Let’s agree, it is always time to prune!
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.