He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it may produce more fruit.
This morning’s reading, prayer, and meditation brought me to once again ponder abiding in Christ. This naturally led me to one of my favorite chapters in the Bible–John 15.
Jesus’ matter-of-fact statement that God prunes his fruitful branches has given me pause for decades. My mind goes to a harsh slashing away at an obedient disciple who is producing fruit. (I suppose I go there since I’m an inexperienced and inept gardener and that’s how I prune our trees and shrubs.) But that’s not how God, the original and master gardener, prunes.
Sometimes I have an incorrect or perhaps simply incomplete definition of common words which leads me to misunderstandings like this. Looking up prune I see one definition is indeed to “cut or lop off” but looking a little further I see it can also mean “to rid or clear of anything superfluous or undesirable.” Looking up superfluous to make sure I’m getting the full grasp of Jesus’ words I see it means “unnecessary, especially through being more than enough.”
So with these clear definitions in mind I look back at Jesus’ statement and understand that the Father is not amateurishly hacking away at his faithful servants. Rather, he is carefully and lovingly removing my undesirable traits and habits. Moreover, he is eliminating the unnecessary, the overabundance of my 21st century American life.
Superfluous so clearly describes our present-day American lives. We have an overabundance of almost everything–food and drink, media, pleasures and distractions, recreation, and the list goes on. Many of us are even overwhelmed with an overabundance of religious activities–Bible reading and devotions, church services and programs, opportunities for service and more.
In opposition to our present-day overabundant, superfluous lives our early Christian mothers and fathers practiced lives of ‘enoughness’. They understood that more than enough of even good things is too much. They willingly, even cheerfully, accepted the Father’s pruning away of the unnecessary and undesirable. This pruning of the superfluous opened up room for Christ to truly abide within them, for them to be one with Christ and with the Father just as Jesus prayed.
I’ve found that this abundant life of abiding in Christ is readily available to me and each of us today IF we will allow the Father to prune away the superfluous. As our Lord lovingly told Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary.”