The first hints of spring always remind me of the lovely crabapple tree which graced the front yard of our previous home. With the first breaths of warmth you could almost see the tree stretching her branches and within days little green leaves would pop out in response to the welcome sun. Soon after, cheerful white blossoms burst forth like lightly buttered popcorn in glorious announcement of a new season of growth.
We first moved into that house in July. Our first introduction to the tree was not promising. A gnarly trunk, shoots sprouting out of the ground all across the yard, a tangle of leafy boughs, and tall, skinny, leafless branches jutting helter-skelter from various junctions in the tree greeted us. There were few signs of coming apples, and those wild shoots absorbed the nutrients from the lawn leaving patchy spots all over.
Visions of Crabapples
I’ve always figured that if God provides something, He would like you to use it. Before me was the anticipation of a crop of crabapples. “Hmm. What DOES one make out of crabapples?” After some research (in pre-internet days I might add) I had visions of crabapple juice and crabapple jelly and crabapple sauce and crabapple crisp – you get the idea.
This Tree Needs Some Serious Pruning
Bud worked his way through college as a landscaper. He shook his head as he looked at the crabapple tree and told me, “That tree needs some serious pruning! You’re not going to have any crabapples to make anything with unless this tree is pruned.” “And” he added, “You probably will not like the way it looks when I first prune it.”
And boy, did he prune it! When he called me out to look at his work I was horrified. No shoots, no boughs, no skinny branches and no leaves were left, only three sad looking stumpy, naked branches protruded from the trunk. “You’ve killed my tree!” I gasped.
Without Pruning, No Apples
Then my husband explained the purpose of pruning. The gardener plucks, cuts, and pulls away all of the useless growth which sucks nourishment away from the tree. Instead of drawing nutrients to help apples grow, my out-of-control crabapple tree was using up energy to grow sprouts and shoots which would never bear fruit. Left untouched, the tree would never produce a proper crop of apples as it was designed to do.
Delightful Results of Pruning
The first year after pruning the tree had amazingly begun to grow back, but still needed shaping and more pruning. There weren’t many apples that year, but the tree and lawn looked much better. However the second year, and the years after that, the tree was well-shaped, and full of apples, delighting us each spring with its blossoms, and blessing us each autumn with ample fruit.
Sometimes we forget that we are under the care of the Master Gardener. We find ourselves spending our time and energy on unprofitable pursuits and the Lord needs to step in and ‘prune’ us. He cuts and trims and shapes us to be more conformed to the image of Christ.
These past few months of unresolved health issues have helped me to think about this process more. Before my mobility challenges I filled my time with ‘doing’ things in the Christian community. My health issues have forced me to think more about ‘being’ in a proper relationship with God and allow Him to make clear what He wants me to do with the limited time and energy I end up with.
Cutting Away Useless Things
A number of useless things have been stripped away these past months – from my thinking, my behavior, and my ministries. Instead God has been teaching me to ‘Be still, and know that I am God.” I am more careful now to go to Him in prayer for others and for direction on what He wants me to do.
Fruit-Bearers for Him
Sometimes we just wish God would leave us alone and stop all of the painful pruning He brings into our lives. But this would not be the consistent with His character. By stripping away all of the useless branches which waste our time and energy, God is shaping us to be fruit-bearers for Him. By God’s grace when seasons of pruning come to our lives we can honor God, learn the lessons He has for us, and be a blessing to the body of Christ.