When my husband and I bought our first home many years ago, it needed a lot of attention in the landscaping department. One area that needed particular help was behind the old single-car garage. There was a neglected and terribly overgrown grapevine. Near it was a tall pine tree. The vine had reached skyward and attached itself to the tree’s branches, climbing to the very top — nearly 50 feet in the air.
From the earth below, you could see one or two clusters of grapes way up in the tip of the tree. By all appearances, the vine was healthy, lush, and vigorous. But it wasn’t fulfilling its purpose. It wasn't producing fruit.
Each of us has a purpose. But like that grapevine, sometimes our lives become too far reaching. We spread ourselves too thin, filling our schedules with more and more “stuff,” or reach for heights in a career that may very well take us to the top, but leave us unfulfilled. Or maybe we look impressive from a distance, but others struggle to find the fruit and purpose when they take a closer look.
Maybe it’s time for some pruning.
Pruning isn’t pretty. Have you ever seen a freshly pruned grape vine? It’s bare, exposed, and scraggly, with only a few remaining stems. It’s a very painstaking and traumatic experience for the plant, requiring the removal of most of the growth and only leaving the best canes to focus their energy on fruit production. It’s the only way you’ll get a harvest.
Pruning isn't pretty in our lives either. If we want to produce fruit and truly have a life of purpose and meaning beyond ourselves and beyond the outward appearance, things might need to get ugly, too. We may need to have that unnecessary “stuff” we cling to be stripped away and be exposed for who we truly are underneath. Maybe it’s time to stop reaching for new heights and reach for the pruning shears instead.
We may need to cut away the overgrowth so we can spend our energy doing what we were created to do… to produce fruit and have a life of purpose and meaning.
Often, we think of big things that need to be pruned – maybe a violent temper, addictions, stealing, or cheating on your spouse. Don’t get me wrong. Those things should definitely be pruned away. But those are just behaviors – the symptoms of deeper underlying issues. To experience real life change, it requires deeper pruning of the root of those problems.
Maybe it’s a heart of resentment, pride, unforgivenesss, or a victim mentality. It could be any host of issues, but there’s only one solution to them all. Pruning.
Pruning is painful. It hurts. It exposes. It can shock us. But take heart. When things are cut away, there’s still a foundation that’s deeply grounded to carry us through and be the source of new life.
I struggled with hatred and resentment for past offenses in my own life, and it left me reaching for more and more, yet feeling increasingly empty and unfulfilled. I tried pruning away the dead wood and unproductive showy growth on my own, but always fell short.
I couldn’t remove the hatred on my own. I couldn’t forgive on my own. I needed the help of others and a power greater than mine to do it with me.
And I wish I could say that pruning is a one-time deal, but it’s not. With each season, it seems like something new crops up and needs attention once again.
But when we produce fruit for a purpose greater than our own, a life that impacts others and isn’t just in it to impress others with a showy display, we find that the pain of pruning is worth it after all.
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