When we bought our house 7 years ago, there was a dead bush in our back yard. We had intended to just chop it down but never got around to it. One morning when I went to let the dog out, I noticed green branches and beautiful purple flowers growing on this dead bush. I went outside and started cutting off every dead branch. Once I was done cutting off the dead branches, I was left with such a beautiful purple flower bush. This process really brought this Scripture to life for me: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 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… Remain in me and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” (John 15:1-2)
“Yes, I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” (John 15:5-6)
We were created to bear much spiritual fruit, just as a branch on a grapevine was created to produce grapes. Spiritual fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. (Gal-5:22-23). It is the evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives to change us into the likeness of Jesus; the evidence of a life changed by God’s grace, our spiritual growth chart, if you will. A life that does not produce spiritual fruit and reflect Jesus will be cut off, and while a life that does produce fruit and reflect Jesus will remain, it still needs to be pruned.
As I write this, the phrase from the hymn “Nailed to the cross” just keeps coming to mind, “He is tender and loving and patient with me, while He cleanses my heart of its dross.” The definition of dross is “Worthless or dangerous material that should be removed.” That is what the pruning process does, it removes things from our hearts that do not belong there, and keep us from bearing fruit. And unlike plants, which have no choice but to be pruned, we often fight God, yet he is tender, patient, and loving. Sometimes we hang on to hurt, anger, pride, bitterness, unforgiveness, gossip, guilt, sorrow, sin, etc., and if we do not allow God to prune those things from our lives, they will only grow and take over the branch (us) until it becomes non-bearing.
One thing that I have learned about pruning plants is that they always come back stronger and more bountiful during the next growth season. For us, the pruning process may be difficult and painful, but it makes us stronger and able to bear more fruit. Are we willing to allow God to help us rid our hearts of the things that keep us from bearing fruit?
What I learned from pruning my dead bush is that with God, all things are possible. God is in the business of bringing bead things back to life. I thought that bush was dead until God showed me the beauty it could become with just a little pruning. Do we allow ourselves to see people that way? Do we look for the beauty that could be? Do we see people who appear spiritually dead and cast them off as though there is no possible way they can become alive again? As long as they have breath, they have a chance.
Karisa Madera Central Church of Christ Del Rio, Texas Executive Assistant