The verb I generally associate with these verses from John is “prune,” which works well for a gardening metaphor. The version I had used the word “trim.” Immediately I thought of my mom trimming my bangs when I was a child. We argued through the entire process every single time:
Me: You’re cutting too much! (as I struggled to check the mirror).
Mom: I’m just evening them up! If you’d quit moving they wouldn’t be so crooked! (as she cut them even shorter)
When we bought our first house in Champaign, IL it had a grape vine; however, we didn’t realize it because the vine was so overgrown it produced no grapes. The next year, my parents advised us to trim it back so it would produce grapes. Jeff cut some branches off but was afraid to cut too much and kill the vine. We had a few tiny grapes that year.
My mother is as aggressive at pruning as she is at trimming bangs. “Cut it all the way back,” she said. “You won’t hurt it.” So, the next year Jeff did, and the vine produced an amazing amount of grapes.
John 15:5 promises that God “removes any of [Jesus’] branches that don’t produce fruit, and he trims any branch that produces fruit so that it will produce even more fruit.” I don’t enjoy this type of trimming any more than I liked my bangs being cut! Too often I want to tell God “You’re trimming too much” because I’ve learned He often trims good parts of my life—parts I don’t necessarily want to let go. It’s not to punish me but to let more “fruit” grow. Holding on to current “good things” can make it impossible to “produce more fruit.” Like hacking off all the branches of our grape vine seemed to leave them uglier than before, allowing God to trim my life as He wants sometimes leaves me feeling ugly as well.
I kept the rose plant I used in the illustration. It’s sitting on the window sill above my kitchen sink as a daily reminder that I need to allow God to be the Vine Keeper and to trim me the way He sees fit. I’m undergoing a season of trimming now, letting go of some ministries that have become less productive in the hope that new ministries will grow and bear more fruit. It doesn’t feel good at the moment, but I know it’s the right step to take.