Spiritual lesson from pruning trees

Published 11:33 am Monday, June 5, 2023

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From the hotel room in San Diego, I watched as an arborist in a bucket truck trimmed the palm tree just outside our window. With nothing more than a handsaw, the tree trimmer pruned branches from the tops of many other tall palms on the grounds. Some of the branches were obviously dead as they were wilted with a tannish brown color and needed to be removed., but the dead pieces were not the only items cut away from the palms. The arborist also removed a good number of limbs that looked perfectly healthy. 

This got me to thinking, why is it necessary to trim palm trees? After some research, I discovered several reasons why it is important.  

The most obvious reason has to do with aesthetics. Many yard enthusiasts greatly enjoy having a well-maintained and beautiful yard. Nicely trimmed vegetation gives a certain tasteful and elegant appeal to any property, as it did at our hotel. 

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Second, as it is with any shrub or tree, pruning contributes to the growth of plants. The appearance of the old growth may look fine, but at a certain point that old growth can be a hindrance to the overall expansion of the tree. Pruning is out with the old, and in with the new. 

Cutting back the branches of a palm tree is also a means to prevent damage. If a palm tree is unattended, that plant can grow to the point where it is a potential threat to the tree itself, the surrounding property and people. Although palm branches are not as heavy as large oak branches, they can still cause some damage. This is especially true in places where hurricanes occur. Pruning will not completely alleviate every potential damage, but it does minimize the risk. 

Pruning plants is not the only type of pruning. In John Chapter 15, Jesus shares the parable of the vine. In this story, Jesus tells us how disciples are the branches, He, Jesus, is the vine, and the Father is the vinedresser. We are told the vinedresser removes the fruitless branches and those offshoots that bear fruit undergo pruning. The purpose of the pruning is for the limb to go from fruit, to more fruit, to much fruit. God’s desire is for His people to thrive by bearing fruit, and part of the process to increase our fruit production is pruning. 

What does God prune from our life? Obviously, anything that is dead or lifeless has to go. Anything that does not give life will eventually be removed from us. This could be anything from a bad habit to an unhealthy attitude. But there are aspects of our life that seem good that will also be pruned. This is not to harm or damage us, but rather to improve our lives so that we are more productive for God. 

There may be a friendship God may prune from your life, or He may call you to spend more time praying, fasting and reading the Scripture and less time on social media. There is a saying that goes, “The enemy of the best, is the good.” Sometimes to receive the best, the good has to be removed. 

Pruning is not always a comfortable process to endure but it is a necessary one. What may seem harmful or feel unbearably painful may very well be the pruning shears of God at work in your life. But pruning is way better than breaking. 

Many years ago, I was going through a very tough time. A friend told me that someday I would look back at that dark moment and realize it was one of the best things that could have happened. And, you know what? That friend was right! During that turbulent time, it seemed terrible, but in actuality, it was God pruning and from then until now, there has been a lot of fruit produced. What appeared to me to be pain and suffering was God cutting and removing. Like the arborist prunes the palm tree, God prunes our life so we may be spiritually healthy, beautiful to Him and thrive.