Every Spring I look forward to a certain ritual. We are blessed with a beautiful property that bursts into a variety of colors through April and May. I love to get outside with my pruners and shape the many shrubs and small trees throughout our landscaping. I really enjoy this pruning process because I see such positive results in such a short period of time. I also look forward to the long-term results that the pruning yields in the future.
The problem is our trees and shrubs are covered with allergens that cause my eyes to get so itchy that I actually look forward to the incredible burning sensation of my antihistamine eye drops. Spring pruning can be a painful process for me! But the long-term effects are worth the suffering because it is on the pruned branches that the most beautiful, aromatic blossoms come forth.
Here is a photo of one of our "unpruned" favorite flowering shrubs, a Viburnum:
You can see the long bright green shoots that extend beyond the blossoms. This is the new growth that I will cut back to ensure bountiful blossoms next year. The severity of the pruning produces a beautiful flower that fills the air with an incredible scent for a couple of weeks. Since I don’t have a grape vine this at least provides a visual example that helps us to understand this week’s Gospel.
Jesus talks about the importance of the pruning process to explain how we can bear more fruit in our lives.
Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. John 15:1-8
Pain and suffering yield beautiful results when we allow God to see us through those pruning seasons. However we must be clear as to where the fruit comes from. It comes as a result of our willingness to “remain” in the Vine. Jesus uses this word seven times in this brief passage. At its root the Greek word means, “to be one with another.”
If you’re going through a painful time, stop and think about the fact that it may be that the Vine Grower is pruning you. He is doing so because He cares for you and He wants you to bear beautiful sweet smelling fruit. Remain in Jesus, His Vine, and allow Him to see you through the pain and suffering. Eventually the pruning ends and you’ll be able to appreciate the experience, just as we do when we smell our viburnum.
And here is the best part…the kind of fruit you produce will last forever!