“I am the 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.””
John 15: 1-2 (NIV)
Blame it on the good weather after a gloomy winter, but I had a little pep in my step. The front of my house has a cute little brick area built for plants right by the front door. Even though I can’t even keep a cactus alive, I thought I’d grow petunias.
I did zero research, scant a Google search. I mean, how hard can it be? Plant it in dirt, water it … what’s the big whoop?
Soon, they started to grow and watching it was good for my soul. It’s just the simple little miracle of life that gets me every time. And before I knew it, they were so bountiful, they hung over the sides.
Obviously, I had a natural gift for horticulture and I started to bring it up to anyone who came near my door. “Aren’t my petunias outrageous? Growing them is nothing, really, so easy. Just God’s miraculous bounty and beauty, AMIRITE? Hahahaha, so anyway, how’s the rest of your day …” and then I’d trail off as the mail man scuttled away.
But over time, something strange happened. My gorgeous petunias started to look a bit wimpy. Clumps were dying and falling off. There was no new growth, just this sad slow decline. How could this be? CLEARLY I WAS GIFTED, SO WHAT GIVES NATURE?
“You gotta prune it!” my friend said over the phone while crunching on potato chips.
“Well, I clip off the flowers once they die, is that what you mean?” I asked.
“No, like chop it way, way back. You don’t have to be precious about it, just grab some shears and go,” she said quickly, right before hanging up because her toddler dumped an entire bag of flour all over the floor.
Chop it all the way back? What does that even mean? I had to face the truth– my natural horticulture talents could only take me so far. I needed Google.
I found a few gardeners with their own YouTube channels and it didn’t take long before I clutched my pearls in horror, as if I was watching behind the scenes footage of a slaughterhouse. This horrible man chopped away at his gorgeous flower beds as if it were grass, practically down to a nub!
All that bounty! All that abundance! All that beauty! Chopped!
But if we want growth in our life, it has to be done. That’s the way God made nature. And it’s the way God made us. It seemed scary, but I saw evidence it was good. It was time to grow up and start pruning my petunias.
Because if I want to grow, to thrive, to flourish, to overflow and reveal all the beauty God created inside me, then I can’t run when I sense God is holding a pair of sheers.
I took the plunge and chopped my petunias so far back, I was sure I killed the whole pot. But in less than a week, something crazy happened. They grew back. And the next week something crazier happened—they grew so much my large container couldn’t even handle them. I had to keep pruning so people could get through my front door.
There I was, just a couple weeks prior, all wimpy and afraid of losing some wimpy and dying petunias, that I nearly prevented them from living at all.
It makes me wonder how many dying things I’m holding on to. How many good things I’m killing prematurely by my blindness, or stubbornness. Things that need to be pruned so I can grow. How many nasty little habits, or personality pitfalls, like pride? What projects do I continue to let take up all my time even though it leads to stagnation or dead ends – simply because I refuse to do the difficult work of letting God lop it off?
And, most importantly, what things in my life are crowding out my relationship with God?
Pruning is so simple, but often scary. It’s hard to let go of certain relationships, routines, jobs or social circles that are just slowly withering on the vine. It seems like it should be easy, so why is pruning so hard?
Perhaps a lack of faith. A wavering trust. Lack of experience and depth in my walk with God. I’d rather have dying petunias, then no petunias at all. Bad friendships than no friends at all. Destructive habits than no pleasure at all, etc. etc.
Cleary, I just don’t get it.
Pruning doesn’t lead to death. It leads to a fuller life.
A seasoned gardener prunes with gusto because their experience has shown them time and again that pruning is essential to growth and abundance.
I want that kind of seasoned experience with God’s pruning. Less fear of God’s shears and more gusto. And some of that just comes with age, I know – but much of it comes with continual surrender and trust in where God is leading me. Letting God prune away what’s dying so new growth can emerge. Risking the short amount of time I might be lonely, or uncertain, knowing the fruit WILL come, because He promised it would.
John 15:2 tells us that God wants us to bear more fruit. More love, more joy, more peace, more kindness, more goodness, more faithfulness, gentle-ness and self-control.
In other words – an ideal, divine, life. One that overflows.
And thanks to my petunias, whenever I don’t feel like I’m living God’s ideal for my life, I only have to ask one simple question … what needs to be pruned?
Then hand God the shears.