Cut it down or trim it back...
When we arrived in Lewistown and saw the parsonage for the first time, my gaze caught sight of the apple trees behind the house. Hmmm, apple trees mean apples and apple pies, apple dumplings, and apple fritters! Yum! Well, as summer progressed and the trees bloomed and should have been producing succulent fruit, I noticed little or no evidence of this expected activity.
Growing up on a farm always yields many benefits and one that came to the forefront was the skill of pruning apple trees. My mother would often say, "When you are done pruning the tree, you should be able to throw a dead cat between limbs without it touching the limbs." Sounded bad then and it sounds bad now! I guess the premise was to prune the tree severely. Aside from the 'dead cat' thing, I have seen evidence of pruning and how our trees would produce more and bigger fruit the following year.
Our spiritual lives are much like an apple tree left alone too long. Many stray limbs and shoots glut the tree of spiritual health and we come to a place that fruit does not appear and cannot due to the condition of neglect. The words of Jesus are difficult for me to hear but necessary for my own spiritual health.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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."
(John 15:1-2, NIV)
If you and I sense a life of barrenness and fruitlessness, its likely possible we have neglected to feed our faith and allow Jesus to do much needed pruning. Allow the cutting to begin and be open to new possibilities of vitality and purpose. Jesus can use us for His purposes when we are bearing fruit, when we are offering grace and love, and when we are bringing another person closer to Him.
In about 4-5 weeks, I will don goggles, gloves, and my bow saw and begin the work of pruning these trees so that next fall we will realize all the yummy pies and dumplings. Today, I will ask Jesus to cut away anything in my life that drains me of usefulness in Kingdom building. I do not want to be fruitless and eventually thrown on the burn pile. How about you?