The winter was coming to an end. The snowy blanket covering the roof of the shed painfully resisted the sharp rays of the afternoon sun. The snow was grasping for its last breath. It knew that with the sunset the frost would return which would transform its streams of tears into crystal icicles.
While sipping on a cup of hot coffee, I was fixated on how the water from the gutters was turning our front lawn into an icy lake. Such a joyful feeling. After so many weeks of slipping through frozen snow, finally a sign of hope.
A sparrow excitedly jumped from branch to branch of a nearby tree. He flew on the roof, then on the fence, and then disappeared into the branches of the grapevine covering the side of the shed. O great, he reminded me that before the winter ends the grapevine would have to be pruned. My coffee was good, certainly more enticing than thoughts of work, so I sipped slowly.
The sunshine was tempting me to throw off the winter laziness and go outside for a deep breath of warm fresh air. After procrastinating long enough, I left my empty cup in the kitchen and went out to find my clippers.
With no idea where to start, I stood in front of a spiky braided vine. Some of the vines ran along the ground, some were twisted in the gutters reaching for the sky. It was the messy chaos of last year’s sprouts which grew so much in one season that they resembled strings of yarn cheerfully torn apart by a bunch of silly kittens. The complexity of the growth was simply incomprehensible. So, where to start? I stood examining the vine while the pruning shears in my hand were impatiently snipping at the air.
Trimming branches is something that every homeowner with a garden should master. There are those types of people who don’t care about the fruit or the shape of the trees. They blindly amputate larger branches to save work with the falling leaves. Then there are those whose work could rival any hairdresser. Their gardens seem to reflect their inner peace and joy. Just walking by brings the feeling of comfort. My goal was to grow good fruit.
Does it mean I’m a gardener? It was the first year for me to trim this grapevine. By the amount of the fruit we picked last year, it was obvious that the previous gardener was a real master and the fruit was his passion. Just like the Bible says, “Every tree can be recognized by its fruit.” I wanted to be a good gardener.
I stretched my hand with the clippers towards the trunk of the grapevine and grabbed the first little branch. The theory about pruning was in my head. I knew which branches I should cut off and which ones I should shorten. I even had the vision of the final product in mind, but at that precise moment, when the clippers touched the live bark of the branch, I remembered this verse:
[Jesus says] “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:1-2
I, too, am a sprout. My wife and children are sprouts of God’s creation. God is pruning us, taking care of us and very carefully shaping us. With these thoughts, the tiny branch slipped out of my hand and I withdrew the sharp tool from the bark. How can I, the one who grew like one of the wildest sprouts, but who was saved and pruned to be a useful branch, blindly take away the chance of life from hundreds of young potential sprouts? I felt crazy. Looking into the overgrown mess, I begged every single one of the sprouts for forgiveness. How can I form something that I didn’t create, or plant? What if God had blindly cut and thrown away everything that came into His hand? Would I have been thrown into the fire?
If I weren’t worthy to prune this amazing plant, God wouldn’t have allowed me to buy this yard in which it grows. I could’ve been planted somewhere else, like the city, where the only thing I’d be able to shear and prune is my own personality. God put me here in front of this grapevine for me to take care of it. For me to prune and cultivate it. He gave me a task…to grow fruit. Fruit for my own and also His own pleasure. With that revelation in mind, I again stretched my hand towards the vine and snipped the injured sprout.