John 15:1-2 – [Jesus said:] "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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."
Roses are the showiest plants in my garden. Their blooms are a delight and their fragrance is like a mysterious gift from God. But roses require attention. If left alone, they may survive, but in most cases they grow in on themselves. The foliage will grow into a dense, tangled mass that produces puny, anaemic flowers. The leaves become moldy and diseased because light and air, the best antidotes to these maladies, cannot freely flow through the rose bush. There may be many little rosebuds, half opened little blossoms, but the gorgeous full flowers that rosebushes are capable of are nowhere to be found. The rosebush, if left alone, has no clear path in which to direct its energies. It is a haphazard, tight bundle that cannot truly produce.
I take out my clippers and begin to cut. Some branches that I cut are full of flower buds. It seems a shame to waste them, but the mold and aphids are eating them alive anyway. I cut off all the dead and discoloured leaves, many of which had never grown to full size. I look for woody branches, branches that have grown hard in the middle and can't seem to draw in moisture and nutrients from the roots of the bush. And then… then the harshest cuts. I cut the very center out of the plant. Some of these branches are thick and tough and especially thorny. These branches are often some of the oldest ones and could be hosts to impressive blooms. But I must remove them to allow room for that vital sunlight and air that will heal my sick plant. I cut little offshoots that will suck nourishment from the plant but will not add to the plant's shape and beauty.
Sometimes there are what appear to be healthy, strong branches, but they cross each other, reaching in opposite directions. They rub against each other, wearing away their protective outer layer and leave an opening vulnerable to disease in each of the two branches. I must cut off one in order to save the other one. I choose to keep the one that is reaching outward, away from the heart of the plant. I cut off and throw away the other. When I am done, the plant looks bald, nude, exposed. It has little to show for itself. There is nothing but a few specific canes, but these canes are healthy and are reaching the right way, from the center outwards. The sun and air can now reach every inch of this plant.
To the inexperienced eye, this plant looks downright unattractive. But I know that in a short time, in the right season, it will burst forth in glorious bloom, shouting beauty to all passers-by.
Our lives are like rosebushes. At times the Master Gardener may cut out our very center, what we think is our heart, but which is actually our self-centeredness. We may ask ourselves, "What is He doing? He's making a mistake! Look, look at these buds, these good works. How can He be tossing away all my efforts? Please," we cry out, "not that branch, not that area of my life; don't take that. That is a very thick branch. It grows from my center and has been part of my life always. Okay, that's enough now, you can stop. I mean it; you've taken enough." And finally, "Oh, my lovely appearance is being cut away. I give up. I surrender."
It may take a long time to accept what the Gardener is doing. Sometimes we understand why a particular branch is taken and sometimes we don't. We must trust that our Gardener knows what He's doing. He cuts because he wants the best for us and will not be satisfied with a puny, anaemic, bug-eaten Christian. He has made us to bloom, and He knows what kind of blooms He can produce in us.
Prayer: With the light of the Son and the air of the Spirit flowing through every inch of us, Father, bless us to grow in the direction You have had planned all along. Oh Master Gardener, prune us fully, so that, as we really trust You, the branches of our life may burst into fabulous bloom, and become heavy with blossoms that are healthy and strong and a blessing to all. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.