As I was entering into 2016 I had been reflecting on 2015, including where I was at the beginning of that year. At the start of 2015, the Holy Spirit was speaking to me about John 15, where Jesus said “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.”
At that time, I posted a short blog series on it.
In it I quoted Bill Johnson, who said “Pruning is our reward for being fruitful because it is your path to greater fruitfulness”. Little did I fully comprehend that 2015 would be a year of significant pruning for us corporately as a church or what that that would involve.
In the past year I have seen the Father working masterfully in our church as the Vinedresser. Most of us can get our heads around why it would be good to trim away fruitless tendrils that suck up precious life giving resources. (Remember Jesus is sharing this parable immediately after Judas has left their Last supper). It makes sense to cut away things that distract us or hinder us from being fruitful.
But this year I have been confronted by the reality of the pain associated with seeing fruitful branches pruned and cleaned so that the remaining branch might bear even more fruit.
It has been difficult at a personal level to see friends, co-workers and mentors who have exhibited great fruitfulness in the church be moved on to new assignments by the Lord. I have grieved the separation of people with whom I have been relationally invested, and yet can testify with joy to the guiding hand of the Lord (the Master Vinedresser) in this season of pruning and transition as he has replanted them to their next vineyard (excuse me mixing my gardening metaphors). They too have been promoted and positioned for greater fruitfulness.
It strikes me that fruitful branches, once pruned from the vine, can be re-planted or grafted elsewhere to continue to bear fruit. But for the naked branch that remains, it has to recover first from the trauma of the separation and pruning and then patiently wait for the promised new growth and increased fruitfulness that the pruning promises. It causes us to be vulnerable maybe even a little embarrassed by our apparent nakedness. It is a season to be patient and to cling to the hope of new growth and fruitfulness (see Pastor Gwen’s post on what it means to be a prisoner of hope).
The good vinedresser will prune the vine towards the end of Winter, before spring arrives. It is in this winter season that the roots deepen to draw up moisture from the ground. Then as soon as the pruning is complete, the vine enters a new season of growth, with new green buds revealing the promise of the potential fruit to come. Apparently, a common mistake amongst novice vineyard owners is to not prune aggressively enough! The Master Vinedresser knows that heavy pruning will be rewarded with increased fruit.
The key for me during this last year has been to trust the skill of the Master Vinedresser, even through the pain of pruning. Pruning is not a punishment or a judgment. To think so is to misunderstand the heart of the Vinedresser. No, it is a necessary process for greater fruitfulness; fruit which only comes as we allow the life of the Vine himself (Jesus) to flow in us and through us.
Reflection: What fruitful areas of your life might the Lord be wanting to prune back, so that you might become even more fruitful? What is your response to the Vinedresser, when you sense him pruning you back?