Last weekend, after watching multiple videos on how to prune climbing roses, for the first time, I pruned my four climbing roses. Even though we’ve had some very cold freezes, all of my climbers still looked beautiful and their branches were still filled with green leaves. But what I learned from my online research, and asking a local rose farmer, is that the leaves from the prior year can actually hurt the rose bush. In some cases the leaves are hiding unwanted things that will hurt the plant, like diseases, dormant pests, etc. So every leaf must go, and then a pruning must take place.
I would be lying if I told you this wasn’t incredibly painful to do. Especially because I just planted my climbers last February, so I want to see them get bigger and grow taller up the building!
After untying all the canes (the branches of the rose bush) from the training wires, I stripped each one of its leaves. One by one they went from looking full of life and growth, to being stripped away, all the way down to a skinny, naked cane.
After stripping all of the leaves off I stepped back to examine the plant to see which canes were crowding others, which ones were growing the wrong direction, and which ones were branched off of another–making the original cane less fruitful. As I looked for these problems, when I discovered one, I’d cut that part of the bush out.
Some of the canes I cut seemed brutal and too cruel, but I knew they were necessary.
As I winced and made each painful cut, I thought about the verse in John 15:2 that says,
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit].” (AMP)
As I pruned each climbing rose bush, I wondered if the pain I was feeling with each brutal cut, was how the Lord felt when He pruned so much of my life a few years ago.
I think, as a good Father, His heart probably ached as He stripped away parts of my life that were hiding toxic things I couldn’t see. And I imagine it was painful for Him as He cut out each friend and then pruned away the marriage I thought was strong and stable.
I wonder if He was whispering under His breath, the way I wanted to tell my roses, “I know this is painful but I promise you this is necessary. I know you are hurting now from these cuts, but I can’t wait for you to see the beauty this stripping, and pruning will bring.”
And when all that was left of me was a skinny vine, striped bare, and half as big as I used to be, I think He whispered,
“Abide in me, and I in You.” John 15:4a (ASV)
Cutting off something that was beautiful, and produced flowers was so hard for me, but I kept thinking about this parallel to my life and when I thought about how much more fruitful and beautiful my life is today, it made it easier to believe the rose bush would produce even more beauty too.
Sometimes there are things in our lives, even people, or relationships in our lives that have to be pruned in order for our lives to bear more fruit. When the Lord bends down and makes a cut I know it’s painful but the most important thing, is to not be angry with Him, but trust Him. I will never forget telling the Lord, “I do not blame you for this. I am not mad at you. I need you.”
When He cuts away parts of your life that leave a bleeding wound, let Him comfort you, let him heal that wound because the rest of John 15:4 says,
“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” (NIV)
In the pain, in the pruning periods of our lives, we must draw near to Him, because without Him our lives will not bear fruit.
It’s a painful process, and not one I have enjoyed experiencing, however, being on the other side of all that has happened, I am grateful the Lord stripped those things, those relationships away from my life so that I could be where I’m at today. By no means do I have it all together, but what I do know is that painful pruning led to a life I could never have imagined.
I am happier today, my marriage is stronger than ever, my friendships are new blooms–each one bringing new surprises, our daughters are flourishing and all of it is because of His pruning, and His faithfulness.
There will be future seasons of stripping and pruning, but in each one if we can remember that the Lord is in it, and it’s part of His plan for our lives to bear more fruit, then maybe it will help us go through the process. And if we look to Him, we will be strengthened and find refreshment, where others might only find pain.
“How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness! Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain. He gives to them a brook of blessing filled from the rain of an outpouring. They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward, and the God of all gods will appear before them in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7 (tPt)