Pruning 101 and some reflections

In the landscaping industry these red handles are somewhat of a status marker.  These are Felco pruners and if you’re working regularly with plants (and know what you’re doing) you’ll generally have a pair of these on your hips.  Through working in the landscaping industry the past year and a half while we’ve been in transition there’s a lot that I’ve picked up.

This little bit about the pruners reminds me that every field has it’s own method of showing who belongs and who does not.  If you know the cues, the insiders and outsiders are very clear.  Just so you know, I finally bought my own pair of Felco pruners early in the summer after months of borrowing a pair from a friend.  They are completely worth it.

So here are three essential rules for pruning…
(if you have no interest in gardening bear with me, it comes together)

1.  The first reason you prune is for the health of the plant (shrub, tree, etc).  Proper pruning allows a more even amount of light to reach the whole plant and greater air movement through the plant.  Both of these are important for healthy, even growth, and decrease the likelihood of insect infestation and disease.
2.  The second reason you prune is for the future growth of the plant.  Each cut you make trains the plant to grow in a certain direction.  So, skilled pruning will help the plant grow towards the shape in which it will flourish.  Certain plants want to take on different shapes and pruning will work with the innate properties of the plant so that it as it grows it will do so in the right direction.
3.  The third reason you prune is for aesthetic value.   Due to uneven light, damage from a variety of sources, competing plants, and many other factors plants can grow in awkward shapes.  They  become too thick and bushy, too thing and scraggly, or seem to shoot off branches in the most odd directions.  Pruning for aesthetic value seeks to highlight the best features of the plant material and reign in it’s bad tendencies.
Often when you work with the plants these three principles will line up and as you prune for health you prune for the future and for aesthetics all at once.  But it is not always the case, and often you will need to prioritize, choosing a somewhat ugly plant that will be healthy and eventually beautiful.

Jesus lived in a primarily agrarian world and after working in a similar setting there is a lot that jumps out.  Jesus says to his inner circle of followers:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
(John 15:1-3 ESV)

Jesus describes his followers as a vine growing from him, the root.  And God, the Father, is the gardner who cares for the vine.  And he prunes.  God cuts pieces off the vine for it’s future health, growth, and maturity.  This is both comforting and challenging.  My temptation is to have God prune me simply for aesthetic purposes (#3) so that my life looks good, things are going well, and in the right shape.  But this is actually at the bottom of the list.  The goal of “bearing more fruit” is a combination of rules 1 and 2.  God cuts, nips, and reshapes for a healthy soul.  He does this, not as a punishment or act of retribution – because someone connected organically to Jesus is “already clean” – but for health, for growth.  As I look at my life right now, I think I see some of the things that God is cutting off for the health of my soul and for future growth.  I see him cutting away fear, indifference, a love of comfort so that love for people and increasingly wholehearted service to God grow.  It is strange for me to be both a gardener and the plant being pruned.

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