“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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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 15:1-4
If you’ve ever seen a tree being pruned, you know it’s a pretty brutal process. Shears are taken to the tree and it looks like carnage – limbs and branches falling to the ground, leaves carpeting the base of the tree. If you didn’t know what was happening, you’d think the gardener was trying to kill the tree instead of help it.
But if the gardener knows what he’s doing, all that cutting actually helps the tree flourish, correcting abnormal growth, controlling diseases, and freeing it to produce more fruit than ever. And just as a tree cannot be its best without proper pruning, as Christians, we produce the most fruit when our Gardener cuts back harmful parts of our lives.
John 15 explains how God, as our perfect gardener, prunes us so that we bear more fruit when we remain in Him. But just like gardening, God’s pruning might look a little starting from the outside. It may mean that He takes away a relationship you idolized, or an achievement that distracted you from glorifying Him.
We may never know why parts of our lives are pruned, but we can trust in the expertise of our Gardener. We can be assured that the One who prunes us does so for our benefit, to give us a hope and a future; that it is all done out of perfect love. There may be more branches on the ground than you ever expected, but you can rest knowing the fruit you will grow in their wake will be incredible. Like a parent who takes away their child’s hand from a hot burner, God’s redirection is only for our best.
But how do we find the faith to trust the Gardener, even when the pruning hurts? We find it again in John 15, in remaining in Him.
I love the word remain because it’s a present, active verb – we don’t just commit ourselves once to Jesus and that’s it. It’s a constant choice to stay with Him, to love Him even when we feel like straying.
We remain in Him by basking in His great love, by talking to Him in prayer and in reading His word. It’s a wonderful, hopeful thing because you don’t have to carry around the burden of making yourself grow!
John 15 says no branch can bear fruit by itself, and that’s ever true of you and I. All we have to do is remain in the vine and trust that the Gardener is growing us in His perfect timing. God is making us into exactly the people He wants us to be out of His love and graciousness, not from any effort of our own. This means we can relax and stop trying so hard!
I love the concept of remaining because it’s a peaceful one, one that doesn’t require great feats to see results. Jesus has already done the great feats, all we need to do now is accept His works on our behalf and allow Him to change us gradually.
Plants don’t grow because of their own applaud-able effort. That’s laughable. They grow because they stay rooted in the soil and let the Gardener do what He does best.