Dead Branches

"If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." John 15:6 (NIV)

Outside in our front yard is a Bradford Pear tree that had never been pruned since it started growing almost eighteen years ago. Its limbs were growing precariously close to our daughter's second story bedroom window. These trees are known for blowing down fairly easily in a storm. They are supposed to be pruned--okay, hacked away at--every year so that they do not get out of control.

Rob decided that last fall was going to be the year of the pruning for our wild tree. He rigged up a system that let him get access to the highest limbs. With his saw and pruning shears, he lopped off the branches until the tree looked downright forlorn and, honestly, ugly. Just now it is quite a comical sight to see the branches that are left sprouting the white blooms before the green leaves take over.

Our tree will have to face a season of unattractiveness. I am confident that after another year's growth, the scraggliness of the tree will be a forgotten memory. The tree is not in danger of toppling over and crashing into our house now. It not a pretty thing to look at right now, but that will quickly change.

Girlfriends, do you know that our heavenly Father is the Master Gardener? We may feel that He has lopped off too many branches in our lives. We cannot see how the stripping and cutting away could benefit us at all. We feel exposed and tender and raw perhaps. We may be sure that life is never going to be good again. We feel vulnerable and ugly.

Listen to what Jesus said in John 15:1-2:

"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." (NIV)

As painful as the process may be, the stripping and cutting away are so that we can bear fruit. So that our lives will count for something. He breaks off that which is detrimental to us so that we will not topple and destroy ourselves and something in our lives that is very precious.

Take heart, sweet sister of mine. If God is pruning you, it is because He is making you more lovely and useful than ever. He who began a good work in you and me will be faithful to complete it. Part of completing us is through pruning away what will never lead us to the abundant life Jesus has promised us. We must trust Him that He knows what He is doing.

Jesus, You make no mistakes. If there has been a stripping away, it is because You desire me to be more fruitful, not less. Help me to understand that what You are doing is accomplishing what I might not be able to yet see--a splendid, full life without any dead branches to hinder what Your purpose for me is.