This week three of my children and I ushered in the fall season by taking a field trip with our homeschool co-op to an apple orchard. All of the kids and adults had great fun, particularly during the apple and cider tasting! The last part of our tour included a tractor-pulled wagon ride: all the fun of a hay ride without the scratchy hay! (Added bonus: My three year old was in a particularly cuddly mood and wanted me to hold him in my lap for the whole ride!)
We were pulled through rows and rows of apple trees, up to the top of the orchard. When he had reached a good vantage point, the farmer stopped the tractor and taught us pertinent facts about growing and maintaining apple trees. When he began to teach about pruning, my ears perked up, because we own a plum tree. I was interested to gain any tips. I made a mental note to come home and teach my husband what I had learned.
The farmer informed us that there are two main objectives to pruning apple trees:
- Take all underlying branches which are growing downward, and turn them upward
- Prune all vertical growth
As I listened to his advice, I realized that these pruning tips mirror spiritual principles that Jesus taught his disciples:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15: 1-2 NIV
If the heavenly Father is the gardener, Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches, then the pruning Jesus is describing is about us! Ouch! How then can these pruning tips be translated into spiritual truths that apply to our lives?
Take all underlying branches hanging downward and face them upward.
What is the purpose in changing the direction of these downward facing branches? The branches will grow stronger this way as they mature and will be able to withstand more pressure without breaking. Low lying branches will bend to the ground as they grow heavy with fruit, and this can cause the fruit to rot. Also, what branches wouldn’t want more sunlight? Up is always best!
How does this apply to our lives? As the Gardener realigns our branches in the Vine, He is strengthening us, making us better able to withstand greater loads. He is maturing us to hold more fruit without breaking. He is keeping us from dragging to the ground and constantly realigning us towards His light.
Prune all vertical growth.
Why would a gardener cut off the vertical growth? These are the new shoots that the tree has produced this year. The new growth shoots upward, reaching for the sky. Apple trees put a lot of effort and energy into this new growth. Farmers purposely prune that growth, because the tree’s energy is going towards the new vertical growth, which takes away from its fruit-producing energy.
How does this principle apply in a believer’s life? The Gardener knows just what He is trying to achieve in our lives when He is pruning, even when it appears He is pruning the new, healthy growth on our vine. He is trying to achieve the ultimate harvest of fruit for His kingdom.
Ironically, an apple tree’s whole objective in life is to achieve its purpose: producing apples. However, on its own, an apple tree can’t figure out where it should expend its energy to best achieve its objective. While it’s busy growing random branches as fast as it can, it’s losing energy towards its very purpose – growing apples! Doesn’t this sound familiar? I’ll be honest, this is one area of my life with which I struggle – discerning where to place my energy, time, and resources. How thankful I am for a Gardener who can see past the present circumstances, to the harvest He wants to produce in our lives!
Pause: When you have a few quiet minutes, read John 15:1-11. What verses stand out to you?
Renew: Ponder/Journal/Pray: When are the times in your life that you’ve felt the Lord pruning you? Was it a painful process? Have you been able to see the fruit in your life, or are you still waiting to see the results? Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t yet seen the fruit – it might still be growing.
Next: Make a list this week of your priorities and responsibilities. Where are you spending your time and energy? Pray about which of these the Lord would have you spend less time and energy (vertical shoots) and which areas He would rather you prioritize.
May we grow some beautiful fruit for the harvest!
Pause, Renew, Next!