“…and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2
I have a pear tree that hasn’t the sense God gave a goose. Oh, it’s a beautiful tree in April, all white with blossoms – the promise of fruit. Come May the tiny pears appear, clustered along the slender branches like coffee beans. It’s tempting to think the tree is a wonder, a fruit-bearing marvel. But by July it’s a sad sight indeed. The branches bend low under the weight of the golf ball-sized pears. They begin to break and whole branches are lost. They tear from the trunk, leaving wounds for bugs and worms to enter. By late September, when the fruit finally begins to ripen – finally gets sweet enough to eat, the tree is a mess.
A friend who was raised in the country wised me up a few years ago. “You may not want to, but you’re going to have to take off some of those pears,” Neva told me. “You’ll be glad in the fall because the ones you leave will get much bigger.” She was right. The past couple of years I’ve thinned the pears. Both tree and fruit are healthier for it.
I don’t suppose it’s an accident the Lord frequently compares His people to trees: “…trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3) Or that He compares our industry to fruit. And the other afternoon, as I was sweating and balancing on the limbs of my old pear tree, it occurred to me I have to pick and choose among my own labors just as I picked and chose the pears that would make it to maturity. My friend was right. It’s painful to pluck the immature fruit, to waste hundreds of little pears because the tree can’t support them. But certainly it isn’t as painful as cutting off the things in my own life I can’t support or hope to see through to maturity. That’s pure agony.
Now if I were a serious pear grower I would build a structure around that tree to hold up the branches. It might not be pretty and I would surely still have to pull off some fruit, but not nearly as much would be lost. The point is we all have to choose, and a lot of our choices must be based not only on the promises the Lord has placed inside us, but also on the circumstances we have built in our lives. We might not like to admit we have built them, but if they are present we probably have. We’re too blessed to be victims.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 wisely teaches that the end of a thing is better than its beginning. Maybe it’s my age showing, but I’m tired of beginnings. I want to see the things I’ve started through to their end. I don’t really want to start anything new until I have, lest I look back when I’m old and find a lifetime of unfinished business. God has prospered some things in my life. Others less so. Seems to me I ought to pay attention to that. That I ought to nurture that on which I see His blessing, and be willing to let go of that on which I don’t.
I imagine my pear tree cried a little over the fruit I took, right before it breathed a sigh of relief. The branches that drooped are now high in the air. The tree honestly looks happier. And though the pears are fewer now you should see how big those that remain are getting! Impressive!
Come to think of it, I’m feeling a little lighter myself.