Pruning is a great way to move forward and grow in your life
I reflected on pruning this last weekend while I was out tending to our property and doing some spring clean-up. What I learned can benefit your spiritual life too. Pruning is a painful, yet necessary and integral part of our spiritual and personal growth.
I live on 10 acres in Salem, Oregon. We moved out here about 3 years ago, so it’s a fairly new life of country living. We have a view of Mt. Hood from our house, as well as vineyards, pastures, and grass farms. It’s hilly, peaceful, and the stars shine just a little bit brighter at night because we are a few miles from the city. It’s truly gorgeous.
Tending to our land takes some work
It’s been a learning process to know how to care for this land, but we are learning. I’ve learned that it isn’t as dramatic as it might sound to tend to 10 acres. Most of our land is pasture. Sure, there is work to do, we mow in the summer and we collect the hay that grows to feed the herd in the winter. Is it considered a herd if you have three Scottish Highland cows and two donkeys? I think so. Other than that, it’s a pretty typical life.
Spring is probably the busiest time for us around here because we need to make up for the winter woes. There are weeds, the bark has deteriorated, and the grass is starting to grow, but it’s not pretty yet. There’s damage to clean up.
Spring means it’s time for pruning
There is a small garden area on our property, and we have 3 apple trees and 2 pear trees to prune. This past weekend it was time to do the job. If you’ve never done it yourself, just know that it’s a fairly easy, but time-consuming job.
The reason you need to prune fruit trees is that new branches start to grow upward over the fall and winter, reaching toward the sky. It seems intuitive that you’d want new growth for a huge harvest. The problem is that all those additional branches will certainly produce fruit, but it takes away from the overall quality of the fall fruit production.
Last weekend I grabbed our pruning shears and a ladder and set to work. It took a while to get the ladder set just right and the rain was coming down off and on. I soon realized that the shears I had available were very dull. The cutting was going to be slow and painful.
As I was working, arms above my head on that rickety ladder, I thought about the Bible’s instructions regarding pruning.
“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.” (John 15:2, NLT)
We need to do pruning in our lives too for personal growth
That description in John 15:2 is so accurate for the spiritual pruning that we must do regularly in the spiritual sense. The problems and issues that crop up can start as small little offshoots from the mature trunk and branches. They seem innocent enough at first, and it looks like they belong until the harvest is later messed up, and it’s too late to do anything about it.
I took those dull shears I had available and got to work. Some of the cuts were so messed up because I didn’t have the best tool available. In addition, I’d never pruned before so there was a definite learning curve. However, I needed to get the job done, so I used the tool I had at hand.
After I cut a few branches, I realized I didn’t cut them close enough to the branch, so there were ugly little stems left. It took several tries sometimes to get the branch cut off properly and then I’d adjust my technique and move on to the next one.
Some of those offshoots came off easily, falling to the ground, and others hung on for dear life and it took some commitment to get the job done.
My arms hurt and I kept having to readjust the ladder to get to all the spots. I hit myself in the face with the shears once, giving myself a little cut. It hurt and made my eyes water. But once the pain receded, I got back to work. My motivation was to get the job done.
I’ve been working on pruning in my own life
In the last year, God has pruned me in a big way. Shrugging off the things that don’t fit with me and God has been calling me deeper into a relationship with Him.
Surprisingly, Covid helped me with this process. Because everything was shut down and life looked different and a little slower-pace, I had the time to really focus on what matters in my life. Pruning needs to be done regardless of circumstance, but the Covid shut down provided a perfect environment for God to really do His work in me.
In the spring of 2020, I was struggling to really understand what my life needed to look like going forward. I was in a hard season of tearing down and I realized that I had prioritized my career and other things, like running, ahead of my family.
My own personal growth, my relationship with God, my husband, and my family are the most important things that rose to the top of the priority list during the last year.
Some things I have gotten rid of have started to bear fruit
I ended a few toxic relationships that were not good for me last year. I had friends (who weren’t really friends at the end of the day) who didn’t stick up for me in a time when I needed it, and they had to go.
I set a boundary and let go. It was a move I needed to do in order to preserve my self-respect. It was the best move for me in order to be able to move on. Setting boundaries is such a loving thing to do, and it allows us to move forward without resentment, but to acknowledge when it’s time to move on for the benefit of everyone.
Another area of growth for me pertained to running. I have had fitness as an important part of my life for the past 10 years or so. Last year I broke my leg and that was taken away for a long time. Running was something I felt I really needed, and yet, God showed me that what I really needed was him. Physical health is important, but it had gotten skewed as a measure of my self-worth, rather than a positive outlet.
Make no mistake, the pruning process hurt.
It took courage for me to make these decisions, prayerfully. It wasn’t a smooth cutting, it was like the cutting with the worn-out shears on a wobbly ladder, without much grace and definitely not wither perfection. But I did it anyway.
I trusted that God had the best for me and that my focus on Him, and Him alone would be enough to sustain me. It was. God has been with me through every painful pruning and re-focusing of my life and priorities. Months later, I feel at peace about those decisions. It still wasn’t easy, and I’ve cried a lot of tears.
I see the fruit of those decisions now, and I’m grateful.
Because of this work I’ve done, and more importantly, the work that God has done in me, I see the fruit starting to appear in my life.
Here are some of the big changes I’ve noticed in me because of that effort in leaning on the Lord and focusing on the pruning process.
- I no longer put my self-worth in my career. I know I am valuable to our Creator and that I don’t have to prove myself to anyone in my career.
- I focus on my family and my husband. Without unnecessary distractions, I had the re-focus on our family. I will defend them to the end, and we stick up for each other as a unit. That was something that was so lacking for us before.
- I started writing. I have had a burden and a calling for writing for many years and I never listened. I’m doing it now and I feel very much like this is a soulful part of me that I was missing.
- I enjoy the small things and I’m content. I notice the gifts I have been given and the blessed and rich life I live. It’s not perfect, but it’s fulfilling. It’s enough.
I’m thankful for God’s pruning in my life
As I worked last weekend, I reveled in the process of pruning those detrimental branches, both physically and spiritually. I thanked God for the opportunity of pruning. I cried a few tears too. It was a painful year this last 365 days. Some of those days and cuttings really hurt. The depth of courage that pruning takes cannot be underestimated.
I didn’t mean for those problems and issues to crop up in my life. They just did because I’m human. That’s why we need God to help us in the process. We cannot do this alone and God is always faithful to lead us in ways that are beneficial and healing to us.
I’m starting to see the healthy fruit now and while the process isn’t complete, it has been completely worth it. I’m now looking forward to this next season, carefully tending to those pruned trees and doing the necessary things to keep the healthy growth coming. It won’t be perfect.
Pruning is an ongoing process, not a one time event
I’ll have to organically spray the fruit trees to keep the worms out. I’ll need to watch for new offshoots and trim them so that they don’t threaten this coming harvest in the fall. It’s a daily process and one I’m happy to do, diligently.
You’ll be glad to do the work too if you choose to submit to the pruning. It’ll be difficult, but so worth it. Trust God and His process of growth for your life. Read more on my blog about