“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” Way back in the early 80’s, having just returned from serving in the military, freshly divorced and mostly broke with a child support payment due each month, living cheap was not a choice, it was an obligation. After work most days I hung out in a music store (same place I met Suzanne) and one day a young student announced that his father had acquired a 3000 tree peach farm and had a broken down trailer that he was willing to let someone stay at in return for a couple hours of work each weekday and half a day on Saturday repairing the trailer and helping with the trees. I was young, strong and eager and the price was right so I jumped on it. I had never worked on an orchard before so I had a lot to learn.
First job for me was pruning, the owner told me to cut off the dead limbs and that made perfect sense, dead limbs don’t produce fruit. Next he said to start by removing a good percentage of live limbs, and this confused me, after all these limbs had the ability to produce fruit. But it was his farm so I did as he said, after doing what I assumed was the best pruning job ever, cutting off 20-25 percent of the limbs, he said good job, now go remove the same amount again! I was confused, I assumed I was trying to get this tree to produce fruit but, instead, I was ruining it! He insisted with a smile and again I did the job. Here, when I was finished, was this poor pitiful looking tree with hardly any limbs left and I was sure that since no fruit would possibly come from it that my opportunity to have free rent would be over real soon. Jump ahead to the summer harvest and sure enough it was the best crop anyone had ever seen, the trees were so full that they looked like mushrooms, the limbs hanging low due to the weight of all that fruit. I have had good peaches before but had never had a piece of fruit so incredible in my life as the first one off the tree!
What I had to learn about peach trees was that after the dead limbs are removed, some live limbs must also be taken so that the tree can become even stronger, more healthy and of course, more fruitful. Removing some live limbs gave the other ones more sun, rain and space and that caused them to produce much more fruit. In John 15 Jesus explains that whether it’s grapes, (peaches) or our hearts, the dead parts, incapable of producing fruit have to be removed. But He continues by telling us that some live parts, things that while not necessarily terrible sinful things, have to be cleared away as well. Jesus was speaking here about vines because the disciples could readily relate to it as something that they were around every day.
I hate to admit that it took me some 30 years to get the connection between His speaking of pruning vines and my experience of pruning peach trees, but maybe I’m just now maturing enough to grasp the strength here. I’m not going to go into another list of the live limbs we might have to look at losing, that list is particular to each of us. But we all have some me of those limbs in our life. Don’t get me wrong. A lot of those things are not in themselves bad, in fact applied correctly, they can probably be healthy. But if they start to come between us and Jesus and are blocking out the sun, rain and space we need to get stronger and healthier in the quest to produce fruit, maybe it’s time to get the pruning shears out.
I don’t pretend to have any great knowledge of growing trees or vines, like most things in life, I know a bit here and there. Thankfully for me, my Father gave me His words to guide me and John 15 seems pretty clear, less me, more God. Less me, more Jesus. I can prune away the dead and pretty easily, putting a blade to the green parts is harder, but if I do it I allow more sun, rain and space for His fruit. It’s time to prepare for a truly bountiful harvest, time for that taste of the fruit of the true vine.