He Cares, So He Cuts
Jesus tells His disciples that the Father is also a faithful gardener who cares for His own. He cares so much that He cuts them. He cuts away the bad and burns it; He also cuts the good to stimulate growth. But it’s the kind of growth that takes time, the kind that goes against your natural instinct to preserve growth at any cost. Instead, the Father is concerned with fruit that lasts. He’s concerned with good fruit.
This doesn’t make much sense to people who honor quantity over quality, who want it to come fast and quick. Always onward and upward. Always expanding. More productivity. More gains. More profit. Instead, pruning prefers healthy growth and knows that flourishing is not a race. Pruning knows that abundance in the future often requires loss in the present.
By now, I’m not thinking of peach trees or grape vines or figs. I’m thinking of lost dreams, lost hopes, and lost desires. I’m thinking of all those things that have been taken from me. All those things that were cut away.
I had dreams of fruitfulness, dreams like tender shoots, growing from the very center of my being. They were not dreams of vanity, pride, or lust. They were hopes for goodness and flourishing. And then they were cut off. Out of nowhere, with no explanation, cold steel cut through my flesh, slicing, marring, disfiguring. I stood limbs outstretched, exposed, and embarrassed. I had been audacious enough to hope, audacious enough to send out a shoot, and now it lays on the ground, dead.
Was it for disease that I was cut or was it for growth and how would I know the difference? And does it even matter when the loss feels the same?
I’m thinking too of how often pruning happens right when you feel like you can’t take any more, when you’re already in a season of dormancy and the world around you lies gray and lifeless. But it’s in these late winter days that the gardener can see most clearly, when the cover of your fig leaves are gone and you stand naked before Him. And when He’s done His work, don’t be surprised that you’re half the person you knew yourself to be.
Jesus tells us that our Father Gardener prunes us for our fruitfulness and the writer of Hebrews tells us this same Father chastens those He loves. And I believe this, but it still hurts, and most days, I don’t have the courage or the faith to believe that this is for my best. Too many days, I want the old part of me back because it is familiar. I forget that losing my life is the only way to find it; I forget that I’ve been cut to be made whole.
But some days, I remember. Some days I remember the taste of sweet, ripe peaches and clusters of purple grapes. I remember that Nathan did this last year. I remember that we’ve been through this before. I’ve seen these trees and vines cut back, and I’ve seen these same trees and vines grow back. I’ve seen them stripped down, and I’ve seen them flourish again. I remember that I’ve got peaches in my freezer and jam on my shelf and hope for more. I remember that abundance and life came from the cut.