Pruning Isn’t Always Pretty – Life Lessons from the Garden

by OCMGA Master Gardener Tammy Borden

When my husband and I bought our first home, it needed some attention in the landscaping department. Among the items that needed particular help was an old grape vine that grew behind the garage. Needless to say, it had been neglected by the previous owners and was terribly overgrown. Next to the garage was a tall pine tree and the vine had actually began climbing the tree and had grown to the very top, nearly 50 feet in the air. From the earth below you could see one or two clusters of grapes way up in the tip of the tree. For all appearances, the vine looked really healthy and lush and it obviously was very vigorous. But for all practical purposes, it was useless. It wasn’t fulfilling the purpose for which it was created: to produce fruit.

Each of us has a purpose, but like that grapevine, sometimes our lives become too far reaching. We spread ourselves too thin, filling our schedules with more than we can handle, reaching for heights in a career that may very well take us to the top, but leave us unfulfilled. Or maybe we look impressive from a distance, but when someone gets close, they struggle to find the fruit and purpose. Maybe it’s time for some pruning.

Pruning isn’t always pretty, and it’s not pretty in our lives either. Have you ever seen a freshly pruned grape vine? It’s bare and exposed, with only a few stems left to hold on. But it’s the only way you’ll get a full harvest of fruit. Pruning is a very painstaking and traumatic experience, requiring the removal of most of the growth and just leaving the best canes to focus their energy on fruit production. Bottom line: without proper pruning, you won’t get much fruit.

If we want to produce fruit in our lives, to truly have a life of purpose, of meaning beyond ourselves, beyond the outward appearance that may look good from a distance, we may need to be willing to allow things to get ugly too; to have those unnecessary things in our lives that we cling to be stripped away and be exposed for who we truly are underneath. We may need to cut away the branches so that the vine of our lives can spend its energy doing what it was created to do… to produce fruit and have a life of purpose and meaning. Often we think of the big things that need to be pruned… Maybe a violent temper, addictions, or overt stuff like stealing or cheating on your spouse. Yes, those things should be pruned away. But those are just behaviors, the symptoms of deeper underlying issues. To experience real life change, it requires deeper pruning of the stem of those problems. Maybe it’s a heart of resentment or pride, unforgiveness or a victim mentality. It could be any host of issues, but there’s only one solution to them all. Pruning.

Pruning is painful. It hurts. It exposes. It can shock us. But when things are cut away, take heart, because there’s still a foundation that’s deeply grounded that can carry us through and be the source of new life. I struggled with hatred and resentment for past offenses in my own life, and it left me reaching for more and more, yet feeling more and more empty and unfulfilled. I tried pruning away the dead wood and unproductive showy growth on my own, but always fell short. I couldn’t remove the hatred on my own. I couldn’t forgive on my own. I needed the help of others and a power greater than mine to do it with me. And I wish I could say that pruning is a one-time deal. But it’s not. With each season, it seems like something new crops up and needs attention once again.

But when we produce fruit for a purpose greater than our own, a life that impacts others and isn’t just in it to impress others with a showy display, we find that the pain of pruning… it’s worth it after all.



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