The other day, I read John 15:1-6, the passage where Jesus talks about the Vine and the Branches. On other occasions, the main point I’ve taken from this passage is about how we need to remain connected to Christ in order to have any hope of being productive: “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (15:4). And this all still holds very true—constantly and consistently so.
But over the last few weeks—actually, over the last few years—the second part of verse two has been particularly salient and especially germane:
Every branch that bears fruit God prunes to make it bear more fruit.
As one of my friends notes, pruning involves not only cutting off dead branches but also cutting back on healthy branches as well—this is reflected in the verse as well: it’s the branches that bear fruit that God prunes.
In case you weren’t aware, being pruned and being cut back are not particularly pleasant experiences. They’re painful experiences. They’re experiences that hurt and ache. They’re experiences that make you wonder what on earth God thinks he’s doing. Especially when it seems to be something good and healthy and something that’s working that gets cut back and stripped away.
The particular emphasis of my understanding of this passage differs from day to day. On some days, I rejoice because, in spite of the pain, I know that God’s doing a grander thing, a greater thing, a more wonderful thing.
On other days, I remember that, in spite of the beauty of the overarching narrative, in spite of the goodness of the Author, in spite of the love of the God who holds my life in his hands, the growing, learning and maturing experience is painful.
And I hurt.