Without regular attention the bushes continued to grow. And grow. And grow. A couple of bushes actually died off for some unknown reason. The remaining bushes tripled in size. I hadn't really noticed how large they had grown until I looked at some photos taken when I first purchased this home. Then one of my favorite bushes in front of the house--a burning bush--got some sort of pestilence. Slowly the leaves began to drop and that bush looked ever so pitiful. Obviously neglect was not an option if I wanted healthy bushes in my yard.
I got out my tools and gave all the bushes a healthy trim. I had to do a major pruning job on my burning bush if I wanted to keep it alive. For an entire season that burning bush was little more than an assortment of sticks coming out of the ground, just a few leaves here and there, and it wasn't pretty or healthy looking. However, as the next season rolled around, that burning bush began to grow and fill out. Two years later it is very healthy again.
Just like bushes and trees, sometimes our lives need pruning. Our lives get overgrown with good activities, work, family, friends, entertainment, things, etc. Neglect blinds us to the overgrowth and blight. We spread ourselves so thin that we barely have time for our quiet time with God. One day we "wake up" and notice how full our lives have gotten. We no longer have regular quiet times with God. Life starts getting out of hand and we wonder what happened.
John 15:1-8 is the passage in which Jesus compares himself as the True Vine, God as the Vinedresser, and believers in Christ are the branches.
“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 bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides
in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch
and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish,
and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this,
that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
Branches (believers) must remain in the Vine (in Christ) in order to sustain life. Abiding in Christ means we need to maintain a constant connection to our Lifesource. This abiding is not a suggestion, it's an imperative and necessary.
My own life has recently gone through a major pruning process. The Vinedresser has been selectively pruning the vines in my life that were not bearing fruit. This includes some really good stuff like people and hobbies. To be honest, at times the pruning process has been painful. It's not easy to say goodbye to so many people and things at once. But throughout the process, the Vinedresser has been tending to me and nurturing me with His love and care. The benefit to this abiding can be found in verses 7 and 8 of this passage: The Father is glorified, I bear much fruit as His follower, and He will bless me. I can now see the pruning has helped me focus more on Christ while the remaining areas of my life are beginning to bear healthy fruit. In time, my life will once again be full with leafy branches and I can't wait to see what the Vinedresser has in mind for this Branch.
"Apart from Me (the Vine) you (I) can do nothing."