Pruning Lessons

Ignorance is bliss. But not very productive, it turns out. I didn’t know kiwis and blueberries were supposed to be pruned, too!

This is the time of year when I do my best to prune my fruit trees. I had a friend who is an expert here this year, and he says I’m learning. He also reminded me, “You don’t have to make all choices today. Take out the crowded center, and the crossed or dead branches, then look at the tree, have your ideas of how you’d like it, make some cuts, and live with it for a while.”

Well, the problem is, I don’t like cutting my trees. I’m sure it hurts them, if they could only say so. They’ve worked hard to grow all these branches, and here I come along and chop them off! The tree doesn’t understand that I am helping it.

Or that’s what part of me thinks, anyway. In fact, if you look for pruning videos online, you will almost always hear the master pruners saying, “The trees want you to prune them!”

At the Adventist Agricultural Association Conference I went to a few weeks ago, the teacher of the tree fruit seminar said that, too. He added another story. You’re never supposed to let trees bear fruit until they reach a certain age, which varies by species and variety. One day he was removing little fruits from a group of young peach trees. His daughter was watching and helping. “Can’t we let just one tree grow just a few peaches?” she begged. “Just one for each of us in the family?”

The father told us he saw the opportunity for a teaching moment, so he said yes.

Privately, I thought, really? Letting it grow three or four peaches is going to be an obvious lesson later?

He told us that in the intervening years, that tree has never caught up to the others in the row.

Seriously??

On second thought, it occurred to me that healthy parents would never say their twelve-year-old daughter could have just one baby…

Anyway, no less an authority than Jesus said, “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 15:2, NASB.

So here I am, trying to cut wisely, telling my trees I’m sorry, but they’ll thank me later. Secretly, I’m bargaining with God, my own Master Pruner—“Just show me what and where you want me to grow! Don’t cut off my growth!” God just smiles and says, “You’ll thank me later…”

“Live with it for a while,” says my pruning friend, who also happens to be a pastor. “Watch what the reactions are. You can change your mind later. The tree will continue to grow. It’s a partnership between the two of you. Take this branch, for instance. Yes, it’s a water sprout, but it’s pointing just the right direction you want. Leave the other nearby one, but if the sprout gets bigger later, you can take the other off and have a branch right where you want it.”

I actually have begun getting some satisfaction from it. Here’s an apple tree that is my best effort so far (though my friend says it’s still a little crowded in the interior.)

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On the other hand, some trees just have an odd growth habit. This is probably more like God sees me…

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And I just learned hardy kiwis are supposed to be pruned, too! Yikes! Here’s a “before” picture of what I now have facing me. Too bad you can’t have both ignorance and fruit…

All I can hope is that the promise to Jesus in Isaiah 53:11 is also for the rest of us: “He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.” (NIV)

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