She never meant to cut that much off a beautiful yellow forsythia bush at the corner of the house. Still, Mom confidently marched over to the large bush, hedge-clippers in hand, and absolutely no experience (that we knew of) in landscaping or trimming. My dad was at work, and Mom started cutting…and cutting and cutting and cutting. Shaping one side of the bush meant another vicious attempt at sculpting the opposite side. Forget symmetry and balance. It was way beyond trimming now. Brilliant yellow branches covered the area surrounding the bush, and soon there were more branches on the ground than on the bush.
Mom had worked up a sweat on that hot summer day. I think I heard the bush scream several times, “Ouch! That hurts!” but in keeping to her high work standards of fully completing a task no matter what (heat stroke, exhaustion, bloodied hands and arms), the chore was completed. She quietly came inside the house, sat down with a glass of iced coffee, and didn’t say a word about the project. Neither did we. It was woefully awful. I think the bush was silently sobbing. What would Daddy say??
He really didn’t say much—he just acknowledged that the bush had indeed been trimmed (we knew he meant decimated and mutilated beyond recognition), but he remained kind and loving toward Mom. If only Daddy had trimmed the bush, we thought to ourselves; it would still be a bush, not a freak of nature. Our dad knew how to maintain shrubbery, plant vegetation, and trim skillfully. He knew that no matter how pathetic the bush looked now, it would grow back fuller and more vibrant than ever. We didn’t have that faith picture; we just mourned the loss of the big, pretty, yellow bush that was whacked down to a much smaller, misshapen shrub.
Our heavenly Father knows all about gardening and trimming. At certain times in our walk with the Lord, the winds of change blow, and we sense something is different. The Father, whom Jesus refers to as the vinedresser, cuts things away from us that are perhaps successful, established, comfortable areas of our lives. It can be unsettling and discomforting as this process occurs. It’s often painful to have a flourishing ministry dissolve or pass into another’s hands because the unknown replacement of that which is familiar can cause anxiety and fear.
Have I failed? Why is the ground shaking beneath me and the certainties I counted on disappearing? What am I doing wrong? It’s natural to look inward and feel defeated as things are taken away from us, but in reality, the clipping and trimming process is very healthy, promising, and bright! New things are on the way—new relationships, ministry, purpose, and blessing!
The process is called pruning, and our Father, the vinedresser, does the pruning because He knows us so intimately and can readily determine exactly what and how much to cut away from our lives to produce a crop of new fruit. He trims fruit--good and noble things we're doing--from us, not sin during the pruning process. That should immediately relieve us of the guilt and condemnation we may feel at wondering what we’ve done wrong. When sin is cut away, the process is called disciplining, not pruning. They are vastly different processes with vastly different outcomes. Disciplining should yield a heart of repentance; pruning is cause for celebration and rejoicing at the new thing the Father is doing! New fruit and more fruit are in the making!
Jesus describes what occurs in John 15:1-5: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of Mine 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. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
The beautiful forsythia bush would have still looked beautiful or recognizable if my dad had trimmed it. Mom got overly zealous and took on a task she was inexperienced in doing. Pruning in our lives is only done by the Father because it requires experience and skill in knowing the individual as only the Father does (Derek Prince, The Vine and the Branches).
When the Father prunes us, He takes us to higher levels with Him, opening doors of opportunities to be used even more effectively than we have been. As He discards the old things we’ve done and been a part of, He breathes life on something new and deliciously fruitful! Just get past the “Ouch! That Hurts!” stage, and embrace His hedge-clippers. Don’t look at the pile of branches. Just get ready for the fruit. It’s gonna’ be good!
© 2022, Chris Werre