The house that I grew up in had a tiny grove of 3 plum trees that my Dad planted on our hill in our backyard, right after my parents moved into the house back in 1969.
They were tiny stubs when my Dad planted them. I arrived 2 years later. By my earliest memories, they were much bigger. Those plum trees stood up on that hillside and were a major part of each season of our lives.
Every Spring, they would bloom and blossom with white, beautiful buds. The leaves would sprout. And by Summer, they were full of big, juicy plums and they covered that hillside with so much shade. They protected us from the hot Summer’s sun. We had so many plums that we couldn’t come close to picking them all. Every Summer, by the time August rolled around, the ground underneath those trees would be covered with rotting plums. There were just too many to pick, even though we made a concerted effort to pick all of them.
When I was a little girl, my swing set was right in front of those trees and I spent my Summer days trying to swing high enough so I could touch my feet to their branches and knock off a plum or two. Those trees were such a part of my childhood and all of my growing-up years.
Every Fall, right around November, after the leaves had fallen to the ground and those trees were bare, my Dad would spend a good part of a Saturday pruning those trees. I hated watching him do it because it was so sad to me. To see those beautiful, majestic fruit trees, that bore such amazing fruit and provided such beautiful shade, hacked away to mere stubs was sad to me.
I asked my Dad why he did it. He explained that if he didn’t prune them each Fall, they wouldn’t grow as much fruit. They might not even grow any fruit at all. Plum trees, like all fruit trees, need to be pruned each year so they can grow bigger and stronger. I understood but I was still sad.
When November rolled around and pruning day came. I’d stand outside, in my jacket all bundled up, and watch my Dad prune away at those plum trees until they were merely stubs. They looked sad and forlorn and bare. I understood why he had to do it. But I still thought it was sad.
As the years went by, those trees grew bigger and bigger and they produced so much fruit. Year after year, by Summer they were covered with plums. My Dad and I would stand under those trees with a garden hose. We’d wash the plums and we’d eat them together, right under the shade of those trees.
The trees got bigger and so did I. And one day, their great pruner died. I was almost 30 .Shortly after he died, I walked outside and stared at those trees. My heart ached.Their faithful gardener, their loving pruner was gone.
The next Summer, those plum trees produced fruit but not nearly as much as they did when my Dad was alive. There was no one to prune them. I didn’t have the heart to do it. Eventually my childhood home was sold and I had to say goodbye to those plum trees.
Several times through the years, since the house was sold, I’ve driven by to see them from the street. They are not nearly as magnificent or as fruitful as they were when my Dad tended to them. Fruit trees need a pruner and their pruner was gone. It’s almost like they knew it somehow.
Those plum trees remind me of God.
God comes along, when our lives appear fruitful to us and He prunes us. We think we are producing beautiful fruit but God comes along and hacks away at our lives. At the end of all that pruning, we look like stubs. Forlorn. Sad. Bare. And we wonder why He pruned us.
And then Spring comes. And all that pruning allows us to bud and blossom and bloom so much more than we ever could have if we hadn’t been pruned. Pruning encourages growth. Pruning removes the dead branches and allows us to become bigger and stronger and more fruitful than we were before.
Summer comes and we look at our lives and it’s just covered with fruit. It’s because of God’s pruning. Those days of bareness eventually make us fruitful. Those sad days of hacking away allow us to bloom and blossom even more beautifully.
You see, God is the great Pruner in our lives. Even we don’t understand it all. Even when we cannot comprehend WHY, we see with our own eyes, that all that pruning makes us even more beautiful in the long run. The pruning creates beauty. The pruning creates growth. The pruning removes the bad stuff and allows good things to grow. Just the way it did to our old plum trees.
And that is the lesson of the plum trees.
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit (while every branch that does bear fruit( He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15:1-2)