Of Blooms and Roots

There’s a lovely little tree in the front yard of my parents’ house. Well…it used to be lovely. You see, after it had been transplanted from their backyard, all of the clusters of pink flowers were completely snipped off. I was curious as to why, just after this cute little tree was planted right where it was supposed to be, all its beauty was trimmed away. My dad explained the reason: Since it would require too much of the tree to both keep its flowers and grow its roots, pruning back the blooms allows it to become established. Had the flowers not been temporarily taken away, the tree would have been in bloom for a short while and appeared healthy, yet because of its shallow roots, probably wouldn’t have weathered the changing seasons. But if it could devote all of this energy to growing deeper roots, then it could sustain many seasons’ worth of flowers.

Jesus applied these landscaping lessons to us when He said, “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.” (John 15:1-2) Being pruned is never really fun. Sometimes it leaves you feeling like all that was worth looking at or admiring about you was taken away. . Perhaps we were transplanted to the wrong place, we might wonder.  Or if I get some different soil, I’d be flourishing in no time just like I used to, we think. Why would God prune me now? What have done to deserve feeling so – useless? The leaves and flowers, the signs of life, are gone. Every other three around you appears to be blossoming, but there you sit, no longer blooming. Stuck, like you’re just taking up space in a garden but not really accomplishing anything. . .Being pruned is rarely an enjoyable process.

Until we realize what’s happening underneath the surface. When we feel as though God has snipped away what we thought to indicate life, it might be because He’s cultivating a deeper, richer life that can’t be seen by mere observation. On the surface, the signs of life are gone. But there’s a different miracle happening. God might have taken away the blossoms, but all the while we’re growing deeper roots. Roots that you could never have grown without being able to devote all your energy toward, roots that will sustain you through far more difficult weather than what you’ve experienced. And while you might feel like there’s not much life to see, there’s a hidden work of strength being accomplished beneath the surface.

What blooms has God chosen to prune back in your life? It could be anything – an opportunity that fell through, a relationship that ended, a transition that hasn’t come so easily, an unexpected tragedy that turned your world upside down, a season that was supposed to be joyful but lately has you feeling…well, a little wilted. Perhaps everything was blossoming then…snap…you feel bare, forgotten, a little useless and wondering when God will let you start flourishing again.

You may feel like the beauty that once colored your life has been snipped away, but God is doing a miracle underneath your feet. You’re getting roots. Not just pretty flowers that are here today and taken with the wind tomorrow; deep, established, able to withstand drought and heat, roots. We don’t always see what the Vinedresser is doing beneath the surface, but we can rest assured that it’s always for our growth. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (v.5) But that’s the difficult part, isn’t it? To abide. To trust that we’ve been planted in the right place. To align our wills with His hidden work of holiness. To endure feeling cut back.

But this Vine is Life itself! He doesn’t whither. He never wilts. And if you’re truly abiding in this Vine, you’re not shriveling up either. You’re not being punished. You’re being pruned. And it’s not to leave you unfruitful and bare. It’s so that you can blossom beyond what you would have been able to otherwise. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (v.16)

That bare-looking tree in the front yard is very much alive. It might look as though it’s not growing now, but come back next season. It will be fully in bloom and its life will be just beginning!