Because of its sheer size, there are some garden chores that are daunting. Pruning the grape vine is one such task. I’m never quite sure where to cut and while I start out with good intentions to be very careful, I usually end up hacking and whacking in a random pattern.
Oh, I’ve read the instructions and I’ve seen the diagrams, but our vines don’t look like those two-dimensional drawings. So, like it or not the grapevine and I do this dance every February.
Miraculously, she survives this annual ritual and continues to grow and produce fruit. The fruit, though, starts out looking good, but usually shrivels up before its time to harvest.
I’m sure there’s many factors - but, bottom line, I’m not a skilled pruner.
In order to prune effectively, I would have to observe the vine more carefully and determine what branches are producing fruit and which are simply adding length and leaves- taking energy away from fruit production. The leaves, while big and beautiful, actually shade the plant from needed sunlight.
Just like training a child, or a dog, for that matter; this task involves commitment. Effective training requires more than just the initial cut back, but also tending the vine, checking for pests and treating for diseases throughout the growing season. Left on their own, these branches just grow and grow - as much as 20 feet! They reach up into the nearby dogwood and spill over the trellis - everywhere they find a little sunlight.
Sounds a little like my own rambling. And sometimes like the fruit my life produces.
Now, I have come to realize that branches can be trained. They grow in the direction they’re cut. While cutting back severely looks and feels like real devastation, these branches come back year after year. In fact, if they’re not cut, they grow less vigorously.
The very act of pruning trains the branch where to grow, it keeps it from branching out in unproductive ways. Just like the analogy that Jesus gives us in the book of John, I want my vine to be fruitful and healthy and don’t expect the branches to figure out how to grow better. So I take my sharp sheers and get to snipping.
I’m so thankful that our Heavenly Father has vastly more skill and experience when it comes to pruning and producing good fruit. Jesus refers to his father as the vinedresser in John 15:1. He points out that the vinedresser is a careful observer and takes away the branches that don’t produce fruit. I’ve never really had the nerve to cut that deep, but perhaps that’s one of the reasons my vine gets lots of growth but poor fruit.
The vinedresser not only sheers the barren branches, it also says that those producing fruit, he prunes. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of that, you definitely feel it. There is loss. There is pain. It can feel a lot like being rejected… if we focus on what’s lost.
Instead, the analogy Jesus makes in this passage encourages the branch to remain in Him, the vine. To live, to abide, to stay focused on and sourced by His lifeblood. That’s all. The branch doesn’t do the cutting. The branch doesn’t choose the direction. The branch just yields.
We are the branches shooting off from the vine. Sometimes we grow farther and farther from the vine. Pruning draws us back to our source, Jesus.
And then, of course, when the new growing season comes, the branches grow, bud, and produce abundant fruit. The act of cutting off the old, is actually what’s needed to flourish.
"If you abide in Me and My words abide in you,
ask what you desire and it shall be done for you.
By this My Father is glorified, that you bear
much fruit; so you will be my disciples…
that My joy may remain in you,
and that your joy may be full.”
John 15: 7, 8 &11