I spent the bulk of today on a ladder in the sun leaning with a blade a bit too perilously into the canopy of my backyard apple tree. It’s spring. And spring with fruit trees means…
Blossoms? I wonder if you said blossoms, reveling in the beautiful white and pink flowers beginning to take over the PNW.
Pruning? Pruning. That’s the answer I was going for. As the caregiver of fruit trees, all winter I’ve been watching the apple tree stretch up to the sky and nearly to the ground with new growth. It’s like it’s pressing against the boundaries, pressing to go that much further.
Here’s the problem. A tree that pushes the boundaries… that keeps growing in every direction… that tree is a fruitless tree.
That tree will not bear fruit.
The tree can and will grow fruit.
The tree grows fruit because its caregiver gets out there mercilessly before spring and redefines those boundaries— and redefines them even more tightly than she did the year before.
Life has a way of doing the same thing— of pressing against the boundaries, stretching in every direction. But life rarely has a season to prune. And so we grow up—we get more degrees; we get promotions; we add friends to Facebook and followers to Twitter; we enhance our cooking skills and our musical skills and our writing skills. And so we grow down to the ground, too— body’s not quite as in shape as it used to be; a friendship that needs confrontation keeps sucking the life out of us; we sleep just 15 minutes less; our savings dips another 5%. Pushing, pushing, stretching, stretching, growing, growing.
Aren’t we so beautiful?? Aren’t we growing so gloriously high in the eyes of others? Aren’t we so rewardingly busy?
Ahh, yes. When you bloom, your pink blossoms stretch from grass to sky, the success of your growth shouting to the world from you throughout your family and work life.
But then in the next season, the season when you’re to bear fruit— when your friends are to succeed and your children are to leave and your protegé is to replace you— you don’t bear fruit.
You can’t bear fruit!
You can’t bear fruit with that many extensions of yourself and goals and expectations in so many different directions! You weren’t created to be the giant cedar tree that just keeps growing!
You were created to be a fruit-bearing tree. God intended for you to make disciples, to leave a legacy of people who follow him. God intended rest for you, Sabbath. God’s created order includes seasons for your life of dormancy, of pruning, of blossoming and fruit bearing. God intended the world to thrive because of your work. He intends his Kingdom to expand with people who know him and bold prayers for the sake of the persecuted and activities and giveaways of intense generosity.
So you need pruning. In the right season we all need those boundaries redrawn.
Ah yes— my schedule can’t go from 5am-10pm. I wasn’t built for that.
Ah yes— my goals can’t be for my physical body, my spiritual life, my writing career, my musical talent, new friendships, Pinterest-worthy cooking, perfectly operating budget, Scripture memorization, creative photography, oh, yeah, and for my life as a pastor. Fruit is born on half a dozen or so strong trunks.
Ah yes— my friendships can’t have 50 limbs in every direction. Gardeners call all those limbs growing straight up “suckers.” Meaning, they’ll suck the nutrients right out of the tree just for the sake of some leaves. They won’t bear fruit.
Ah yes— my weekend should have some rest among the emails, the family, and the household chore list.
That many branches just can’t bear fruit.
What will you let God prune from you?
An intense season of pruning might leave you feeling spindly like my apple tree out there right now. There might be a frighteningly high barricade of branches left lying about. You might be terrified— who is going to pick them up?? Your photo-worthy spring season of blossoms might not make it on the cover of a magazine. But oh that fruit. That’s worth the pruning.