“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.” John 15:4-5
This past weekend we had unusually mild weather for mid-June in the Carolinas. Saturday was a particularly beautiful day. The perfect weather was calling me outside and I finally felt up to conquering the weeds that had taken over and were holding my plants captive. My little flower garden was way past due for some tender loving care. It took me nearly all morning. I had a couple of little helpers (my neighbor’s girls) but they were a bit more interested in the roly-polies that were being misplaced by my spade than in helping me with the gardening…but the girls are cute and I enjoyed their company nonetheless. Along with de-weeding around my plants, I pruned a couple of bushes, thinned out my irises and transplanted a daylily. It was a very productive morning. I was completely covered in dirt and sweat by the end. It was great.
There is something very spiritual about gardening. I remember one time a few years ago when I was going through some really tough situations, I went over to an older motherly friend’s house to talk things over with her. It was morning and I thought we would chat over coffee and muffins, but when I arrived we headed out to her garden. As I talked (and shed a few tears) she pulled weeds and listened. I finally pulled myself together enough to help her pull the weeds; the work went much faster with both of us. Once we had the weeds out of the way, we began to plant tomatoes and various other vegetables that would feed their family that summer. As we planted, she spoke words of wisdom and encouragement that took root in my heart. I don’t really even remember what she said but the combination of unburdening my heart while we were pulling up weeds and the encouragement in my heart that grew as we planted her garden has stayed with me.
This time as I was working in my garden, I was convicted of the weeds that I’ve let grow up in my heart recently. I’ve not been quick to repent or ask for accountability in some areas where I’ve been struggling with sin. I’ve become a wee bit stubborn and lazy. When I let sin grow, either by inattention or stubbornness, it squeezes out precious room for the fruit of the Spirit to grow. It’s much easier to pluck out sin when it’s smaller and the roots haven’t had time to sink in. But I get tired of the toil. It keeps springing back up—either in the same place if I didn’t get at the roots, or sometimes in different places where I hadn’t noticed it before. It’s tough to stay on top of it and to keep bringing myself to the Vine Dresser for his pruning and de-weeding kindness. But if I don’t continually come to Him, my fruit gets choked on the vine. So to Him I must go.
Pruning my plants was also very meaningful to me. As the pruner, I don’t mind cutting away the dead branches because I know the plant will flourish more without them. And sometimes even the branches that seem to be doing well have to be cut back so that fuller and even more fruitful branches can grow. But as the one being spiritually pruned, the thought of anything being removed is scary. Dead branches can be difficult to let go. When something that you have loved or given much effort to has dwindled and is then removed, it can be a trying time. It’s tough to let go.
I also need to have “good” things pruned. I have a hard time saying “no” to things that I know will be profitable or fun. I struggle with overbooking myself so that I become stretched thin in order to get everything done (with nothing done well). Soon I have spindly branches reaching out all over the place. This means they need to be (and soon are) pruned, cut back, trimmed so that more energy can go to growing full and healthy fruits rather than to my thin and spindly efforts. Or to put it another way, I need to focus on “quality rather than quantity.”
But the One with the shears is faithful and is a much better gardener than I am. He knows what needs to trimmed. He doesn’t accidently snip branches. He is committed to seeing us bear much fruit and sometimes the only way to do that is to cut off some branches. It can be hurtful but it is not from ill will. He loves us. He’s the one who makes us grow and blossom. He wants to see us flourish with healthy beautiful fruit.
“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.” Psalm 92:12-15