A friend asked the question, “Is it okay to prune my Hebe shrub back hard because it has become unruly and leggy?” I double checked online and then answered in the affirmative. My friend was concerned it would look dead and woody, so I assured them that they will get some nice fresh growth as it grows back. I even said that life can be like that sometimes, we need a good hard stripping back from time to time to encourage lush new growth, for example giving up bad habits can be difficult and sometimes painful, but the outcome is a fresh start or a healthier lifestyle perhaps. This got me thinking…
In horticulture, as in agriculture, it is an important principle to remove dead wood and prune back, so that fresh growth can produce fresh abundant fruit. This is illustrated in Scripture: “you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop,” (Leviticus 25:3) which assumes that pruning is what encourages the production of fruit. The Lord Jesus Himself, using the process of growing grapes for wine, illustrates how we are to become more fruitful for Him:
“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 bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)
This again makes the assumption that not baring fruit makes the branch useless and so it is removed to encourage new growth. I can imagine that a freshly pruned vineyard looks bare, lifeless and woody, but go back a few months later and all you see is lush green growth and beautiful bunches of ripe juicy grapes hanging on the vines.
This principle is an important one for all of us to bear in mind whether we are Believers in Christ or not, and it certainly is true that good things can come from the stripping back or pruning of dead wood; but what of a much deeper perspective?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
We must be made new in order to enter the Kingdom of God. It is an irony for us humans that we strive for something we can only partially fulfil, a mere shadow of what they should or could be, as though it were possible to make them fully substantive: perfection, happiness, a truly meaningful and purposeful abundant life, as well as long, healthy or immortal life; but, as much as we strive and reach for these things, there is always more to look to, the next thing, as nothing, truly, deeply satisfies this deep desire and of course physical death is an eventual reality for us all.
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” (Jim Carrey)
I may not agree with Jim Carrey’s answer to this question, but the statement rings true. So, what then is the answer; if there is one at all?
As humans we have lost something that we once had: we were originally made in perfection and we had all that we could ever need; we wanted for nothing; we had meaning, purpose, were entirely happy and would never die. Our lives meant something, because God made us. Our purpose was to keep and cultivate the Garden of Eden, multiply and fill the earth, spreading Eden wherever we went, thus taking with us Gods goodness, and we, as an expression of His character were to live well and in harmony with one-another.
Well we don’t live that way anymore! Corruption entered the world through our disobedience because we desired to live how we wanted, to be the captains of our own souls, relying instead upon our own resources.
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” (John 15:6)
Here’s the real irony: In order to gain back what we have lost, we have to give up on every other desire we have; we cease striving and abandon our search, and seek the one who is the source of all fulfilment and is able also to provide it.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25)
It is in seeking Him, that we gain all that we desire. In-Him we gain true meaning again, a purpose for living and a happiness and joy that no amount of sorrow or trouble can erase.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)
Prune back the dead wood of your own desires, throw them on the fire, burn them and seek the new life that only Jesus is able to provide.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
Read my story of how I found my new life in Christ: