Jesus is a man of metaphors, analogies, and stories. One of my favorites is His last: The Vine, the Branches, and the Fruit.
To truly understand this, you have to understand what a vine in a vineyard looks like. We’ll break it down into 3 parts:
- The Vine: This may seem obvious, but it is the part of the grapevine that is rooted to the ground. What was surprising to me is that it is more like a tree trunk, because it is thick and is trained to go straight up the fence. You could call it The Stem. This is God.
- The Branches: The vine is very thick, and the branches come off of the vine at various points. There is a very clear delineation of which is the stem and which are the branches. This is us.
- The Fruit: This is the actual point of the whole operation – vineyards were not grown for their beauty. This is what we are here to do!
There is so much beauty and meaning in this metaphor…one that God used throughout history to describe His relationship with His people. But for today’s post I want to focus on just one small part of the analogy: Pruning
John 15:2 (NLT)
He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.
As I have covered in my midi-thirties series, this is a time in my life where I am reevaluating and refocusing. To put it another way, it is a time of pruning. I love the book, Secrets of the Vine, by Bruce Wilkinson. In it he has a couple good quotes about pruning:
“God’s strategy for coaxing a greater harvest out of His branches…is to prune, which means to thin, to reduce, to cut off.”
“For the Christian, rampant growth represents all those preoccupations and priorities in our lives that, while not wrong, are keeping us from more significant ministry for God.”
“His purpose is for you to cut away immature commitments and lesser priorities to make room for even greater abundance for His glory.”
Speaking as a Branch on the vine, I can look back at my teens, 20’s, and early thirties as times of huge growth and pretty good fruit. Now as I move into my late thirties, perhaps it is time to prune!
Situation 1: Is This Pain Pruning?
Are you going through a painful part of your life where it seems like you are hitting some dead ends? Or maybe some things are changing outside of your control and you don’t like it? Maybe something that used to work, doesn’t work anymore?
Ask God if this is a time of pruning. Maybe He is carefully removing some areas of your life that were good, but are not the best. He may need to make room in your life for something else that is even bigger. He is helping you to focus in on what will really bear fruit.
Situation 2: Proactive Pruning
You have reached a pretty good point of competence in many areas of life. You are doing well at work, your house is under control, you’ve figured out a pretty decent balance at home with the family, and things at church are fine. In short, life is good. You might think that you should hold still and try not to mess anything up, but this is actually the perfect time to do some proactive pruning. Start praying and asking God which of the things you are doing you should stop doing. Trust me, if you start opening yourself up to pruning it will be less painful than forcing God to pry each branch from your grip! Just because you CAN do a dozen things does not mean that you SHOULD do them all. God will deal with each of us differently…some of us need to branch out and try something new. Others need to prune aggressively down to the 1 thing that we are supposed to do. Most of us are probably supposed to do a balance of both. Cut out some things, double down on some, and add a few new ones.
Situation 3: Growth Prior to Pruning
You may have read through both scenarios and said, “No, not really.” Maybe you have not reached the point of pruning yet. That’s a good thing. You can be even more proactive and ask God what He wants you to do, instead of dashing madly after everything shiny (like most of us). I believe that God can help you grow your vine in the right direction in the first place (think, “Train up a child in the way he should go…”) and so you will require less drastic pruning later. And regardless, the years of rampant growth and exploration are exciting, because you don’t know yet what branches will be the fruitful ones. Enjoy!
Bonzais Need Not Apply – The Goal Is More Fruit
Don’t go to the other extreme – God doesn’t want you to be a bonsai. Don’t rush out and quit all of your commitments so that you can ‘focus and prune.’ God wants your branch on His vine to be full and productive. Rich, in the true sense of the word! But I have found that my mid-thirties are a time for asking what areas of my life should be allowed to flourish by cutting away everything else that distracts. The clarity is sometimes painful, but ultimately freeing!
Spend a little time this week thinking about your own fruitfulness, in your work, your marriage, and your walk with God. Where are you seeing fruit? Where are you simply buried in leaves? Allow God to prune you, and you will see even more fruit!
Good book about pruning: Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown