My roses have been beautiful this year. The hedge of roses that grows along the backyard fence has been filled with vibrant pink blooms for a few weeks now. New green leaves and buds continue to appear, thanks in part to the abundance of recent rain. In fact, the branches have become so prolific that the bushes leaned outward, creating a cascading effect of rose blooms along the stone pathway. I have loved taking in the beauty of these flowers.
Since the first blooms are now fading, I decided today to cut them back in order to encourage new blooms to grow and take their place. As I began trimming away dead buds, I was startled to find yellowing leaves and dead branches underneath the leaning hedge I have been admiring. I continued to trim, cutting back more branches and discovering more undergrowth that was leafless and almost lifeless. My pleasure turned to pain as I saw that the new outward growth had in fact been suffocating the inward roots and core branches of the plant. I realized that the only way to bring healthy growth back to my rose bushes was to brutally trim back the luscious surface blooms so that the sun and rain could reach the roots and cause the plants to grow strong and healthy from the inside out. About an hour later I stood next to a pile of cut rose stems as high as my waist. Most of the beautiful color I admired had been removed and the bushes themselves, now exposed, began to take in the sun and circulating air and fresh rainfall so necessary to life.
With every snip of my cutting shears and every branch tossed aside, I heard in my mind the words of Jesus, who said, “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.” (John 15:1, 2) Notice that either way, every branch is cut by the Master Gardener. He either cuts off that which produces no fruit or he cuts back that which could produce more fruit. Either way, something is taken away from me at his masterful discretion. Most likely this pruning process is not pleasant. Most likely new growth does not appear immediately. But God the Father knows how much I need this.
Today I pruned the pretty stuff I admired on the outside of my cascading rose hedge. I cut off what I liked so I could take care of what I need, healthy plants and roots. Am I willing to allow the Master Gardener to be as brutal in my own heart? Am I willing to let my Heavenly Father cut off what I like in order to give me what I need, a heart like His that produces fruit for Him? Sometimes even over-busyness in service can become like the outward hedge of flowers, suffocating life out of the inward heart. Only Jesus knows what we need to lose in order to gain.
Lord, please apply Your brutal pruning shears to the branches of my heart. May I be willing to give up that which looks pretty on the outside in order to receive Your life and health in my most inward parts. For only then will I truly bear the fruit that You desire, the fruit which brings honor to Your name. Amen.