Now that Christmas is over I find my thoughts drifting towards the garden. I am longing for spring even though I know that it is still at least 2 – 3 months before the weather warms. But the seed catalogues have started to arrive and I am drooling over the possibilities for this year’s garden. However I am also aware that there is a lot of work to do before I can do any planting and as I plan the next couple of months I realize that there are lots of very spiritual lessons to learn as well. In fact most of my best spiritual lessons these days are connected to the garden and I can understand why Jesus used so many agricultural metaphors.
Why I wonder do we prune our fruit trees in the winter when they seem so bare and vulnerable? Or probably more to the point why does God insist on pruning our lives during the difficult winters of suffering that are definitely all a part of the human condition? Well I do know that pruning in winter means that the roots go down deeper and strengthen the tree, and the harder we prune the more vigorous will be the spring growth and the greater the harvest. Maybe it is the same in our lives – God often prunes us during the frigid seasons of struggle and pain when the branches seem bare and our souls feel most vulnerable. And often the pruning is just as severe as what I inflict on my trees. If we really want to be fruitful during the seasons of harvest that God allows us then we need to be willing to be pruned and shaped not during the times that life is good and we can handle a little painful cutting but during those wintery season when we feel spring will never come again.
We shouldn’t try to run away from the pain of pruning we should willingly embrace it. That doesn’t mean we become masochistic and deliberately inflict pain on ourselves but it does mean that we recognize that winters of suffering and pain are an important pruning stage in life and the fruit that results is often spectacular
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes [a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15: 1-5 TNIV)