This weekend I attended church and our pastor talked about fruitfulness. As Christians we are told to be "fruitful". While the pastor was referencing John Chapter 15 in which the author is talking about a vine and it's branches I kept thinking about pecan trees and their branches.
Just like the "gardener" prunes branches that do not bear fruit so do pecan farmers. We cut back limbs that have died or those who have been broken by the storm and will soon die. We hedge, thin and prune our trees in order for each tree to produce its largest amount of quality pecans possible.
Sometimes we prune and hedge the trees to allow more light to shine in on the remaining branches because without light the branches cannot bear fruit. Sometimes we prune trees so they will grow in a way that will make the stronger and better able to withstand storms. Sometimes we prune trees to make sure they don't overproduce one year and thus get so stressed they can't make a good quality crop.
Pruning is not meant to hurt the tree. It is meant to make the tree better and more fruitful. The same is true with us in life. The "gardener" (God) prunes us to make us better and more fruitful. He might cut away branches that no longer serve us. He might cut branches that cause us to grow in a way that is not beneficial to us or that will produce unpleasing fruit. He might cut out branches in order to make us stronger so we can endure during the storms of life.
While pruning is necessary it is never fun. Pruning leaves scars both on trees and on people.
Pecan farmers tend to prune and hedge at the end of winter; generally around February when the crop has been all harvested and spring is still a few months away. In Texas spring can come early so we make sure as soon as harvest is over we start working on the trees to get them ready for the next season. It is actually kind of sad to drive through the orchard in February/March and see all the trees with the blunt cuts from the blades of the machines. The trees are bare of leaves and the tops and sides look like the agriculture version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They look like they are in pain but what they really are is they are healing.
The trees are healing from producing and harvesting the crop. The pruning was done to aid in that healing. It helps them from getting too big and out of shape. The hedged parts will usually sprout new growth which is healthier and stronger than the older part of the tree. The process that looks so ugly and painful is actually very beneficial to the trees.
The same holds true for us. Sometimes when we have just come off a very successful time in life (harvest) that is when God decides to prune us. It may not seem logical at the time but He is really trying to help us. Other times we are at our lowest points. We are drained and physically exhausted and that is when God takes out His pruning knife and hacks away at our limbs. These times can also be confusing because we are already at such a low point the idea of losing a part of us seems almost too much to bear, but God knows what we need.
Just like with pecan trees, when the time is right, when spring once again returns to our lives, we see our growth take shape as God intended it. We see our bodies, minds, and souls get stronger. As the winds blow and the rains come we are able to bend but not break. Before long the "fruits" of our lives begin to show and we prepare for another bountiful harvest time once again.
Unfortunately, just as pecan farmers must prune trees almost every year so too must God prune us more than once. This process of pruning and growing happens over and over again. We just need to be patient and trust the "gardener".