20 Sep Pruning
A member of our Kidspace team, George, is the general manager of a local vineyard. While the City Church staff was on a prayer retreat a few years ago, George was gracious to stop by and walk the staff through the vineyard where we had prayed. While standing in a row of the vineyard in the hot sun, he talked in great detail about the many facets of making great wine. “Great” wine requires the best fruit that the vineyard can produce. To produce the best fruit, pruning several times through the year is a necessary task. It was very shocking to hear how the vines needed to be pruned and cut back, but in the end it became crystal clear that the purpose is to focus all the nutrients and energy into specific shoots to produce the best fruit.
I recently connected with George to verify that from the many shoots that grow fruit, only a select few would remain to grow the best fruit. George also discussed with me further the concept of dropping fruit. A few days later, I received a text with pictures showing how many good grapes had been cut away. The clusters of full grapes sitting on the ground were subject to the “dropping fruit” process.
He stated, “This is really good fruit on the ground, but hopefully great fruit ripening on the vine.” Pruning is not a one and done situation in the vineyard; producing great fruit requires a continual cutting away sprouts and “good” fruit to thus gain the opportunity to produce great fruit.
Scripture talks about our lives in similar relation to the vine. God desires the best for us, and He deserves our all. This is not only to benefit the King and His kingdom, but also to bless us as individuals. John 15:2 highlights this, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Pruning is a spiritual reality that does not get mentioned frequently or with much excitement.
Why not? Pruning is a cutting away process that removes “good” to produce what is best in us. Jesus demonstrates this numerous times as he removes himself to a remote location and finds a quiet time to pray and connect to his Father. Jesus was doing “good things”; teaching and healing the crowds, but He knew he needed to prioritize his time with his Father.
The Old Testament highlights the focus of pruning as well. Leviticus 25:3-4 instructs the Israelites, “For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.” Did you catch the fact that there was pruning involved on a yearly basis except for the year of rest?
Pruning and rest is directly opposed to the American culture that we live in daily. Growing up in a home with two highly driven parents, I learned the value of efficiency and maximum output. In college, I learned the business practice of “Just in Time (JIT)” from … W. Edwards Deming. JIT focuses on maximum efficiency and making sure you have everything at just the right time with the least amount of waste. Today’s culture of using efficiency and multitasking to maximize our lives is not exactly how Christ calls us to live. Christ calls us to cut away things in our life that are just “good”, because he wants what is best from us. This is painful to say, because I like to go full tilt.
I grew up with a Becker family phrase of “Maximum Fun” while on vacation. This still holds true today where we will pack as much activity and fun into the space of time that we have together. Why only do the 3 mile hike when we can go another mile and be at the base of the waterfall? Why not go for a lake swim on January 1st at 12:10AM as one of the first things to celebrate in the year? However, at the end of the vacation, there is always a price to pay for the extreme output of daily energy that was put out.
We must realize that the sum of a whole lot of “good” does not always equate to the best. Seeking God for his wisdom to decide what to take on and what to let go is easy, but following His desire is where it becomes difficult.
Being a parent and hearing people’s schedules reveals that most have busy schedules. At times, it is concerning how much of a load that individuals and families are taking on consistently. There are seasons where full throttle is necessary, but it should not become the norm for our lifestyle. It’s not bad or sinful things that people are involved with, but is it what God’s plan is for their life that will produce the best in them. Saying no to a child or a request from a friend is a difficult thing to do. Pruning is work and feels unbecoming in a society that says, “Do everything that pleases you.”
Pruning is also about patience and does not feed the need for instant gratification. It takes time to develop and grow the remaining grapes to produce the best fruit! It takes time to develop and produce the spiritual fruit that God wants to see in each of us. It is easy to allow certain “good” things to creep in and fill space that God desires for something else.
Ask God if there is any pruning needed in your life. In your life, are there shoots and “good” fruit everywhere, or do you have a laser focus on producing the “great” fruit that God desires for you?