“…they climbed their ladders to whittle and prune the trees into holiness”
― Catherynne M. Valente, In the Cities of Coin and Spice
The Old Unpruned Apple Tree
Were you praying for me this morning? Yep! I knew you were because I had one of God’s angels show up at my door this morning…even before my coffee was done brewing. Well, maybe not an actual angel, but he did carry a Godly message when he introduced himself as the guy from the Tree Care Service. I looked at his card, then back at him. Did he know that this morning I had been reading John 15:2? “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.”
Actually I have been thinking a lot about pruning lately. Looking over our property I noticed several dead trees and branches. The pear tree that produced so much for us was looking thick and bushy. And I wondered about the old apple tree at the edge of the lawn. It had produced nothing except one misshapen tiny green apple. The branches were twisted and void of many leaves. It looked hopelessly lost sitting in an untended weed patch. I had it marked as “ready for the firewood pile”, that is until the Tree Care Guy showed up today looking for work.
After checking credentials and asking key questions we took a walk discussing the trees in question. Stopping at the old apple tree I told him my plans to add it to the firewood pile. He asked me why I didn’t want to keep it and I told him it looked pretty hopeless to me…fruitless dead wood struggling to just stay standing. And then he said (and this is the God message part), “It is not hopeless. You just can’t see what’s living and green inside.” He told me that by pruning it back and fertilizing it a bit we should have a blooming apple tree in a couple of years.
I heard God’s message loud and clear. God can see beyond my weary dead branches, past what feels dead and hopeless to me. He knows there is life hidden inside that can still produce fruit. AND He knows when and how to prune my particular heart and mind and life.
I read that pruning is an essential gardening skill and that when it is done correctly, it will enable new and healthy growth as well as an abundance of crop producing flowers. As I look out my window now at my properly pruned apple tree I try to envision buds and blossoms, fruit and pie. That’s hard to do today. My Tree Care Guy has whittled and pruned back the dead and dying to the green and living wood, leaving not much more than a bare trunk with hardly a branch for the birds. But because of his knowledge and skill he told me confidently it would bear good and abundant fruit again.
So, I thank God for my unexpected visitor this morning and the reminder that God is the Great Gardener who sees the potential within us and knows what needs to be pruned away in order to be fruit-bearers for His Kingdom. I am ready to be “whittled into holiness”.
I knew in my heart that I wanted to know the garden intimately, to know all the flowers in each season, to be there from spring through autumn, digging, pruning, planting, feeding, rejoicing.” -Elizabeth Murray