As I weaved between the heavy laden peach trees in the orchard, the freshly cut branch caught my eye.
Hanging barely an inch from the pruned end was an interesting peach. Almost perfect.
One leaf protruding at the absolute perfect angle, the perfect coloring, perfect shape, but what is that bright yellow bubbling from its seam? And it has a scratch. A scar-like blemish underneath the hard yellow bubbles.
I run my hand around the peach. Feeling its firmness, its fuzz, its overall texture.
I focus on the rings in the exposed branch.
Wondering why someone cut part of the branch off so cleanly right in the middle of harvesting season.
Then I took in the bigger picture. I looked past the individual branch and peach that had caught my eye to see the tree.
The tree was under great strain because of weight it was bearing. The tree was producing fruit. And not just that one almost perfect peach. There were many, many almost perfect peaches forming on that tree.
Why did the gardener cut off that branch? This tree is obviously a very healthy tree producing the kind of fruit it was meant to produce.
“He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:2
Fruit Laden Servants
Have you ever found yourself serving the Lord in more than one way? Perhaps you have been working with a program in your church teaching AND you have been working with a program that focuses on community service.
You are gifted in both areas.
You enjoy both areas.
There is a need in your church body for people to serve in both areas.
You are seeing fruit being produced in each area.
But one of those two areas keeps putting stumbling blocks in your way. And you’ve prayed about the stumbling blocks.
Sometimes we want to hear that those stumbling blocks are our tests and trials.
Yes. Go back.
Read it again. Put more emphasis on want to hear.
See, pride says, “They need me. I’m the only one who can do this.”
And the evidence says, “Look! Look at all the fruit this tree is bearing!!!”
Then there’s the people around. They’re trying to encourage you. “You do such a great job! We are so blessed by your faithfulness. God has really anointed you to do His work.”
Before long we start believing our feelings, our eyes, and our ears, and we forget that there’s a Master Gardner who sees more than what our eyes have chosen to focus on.
As I looked at that freshly cut branch I noticed the rings. Branches have rings just like the tree trunk does. I wonder if the branches tell the age.
I did a bit of research. It seems that each part of the tree has rings, and the rings on each part tell the age and history of that part of the tree.
What’s On Your Tree?
So, if I am a tree and I am serving in two main capacities (teaching and community service) then I have one trunk and two main branches.
However, off of the teaching branch I have secondary branches. I teach English at school. I teach youth on Wednesday nights. And, let’s say I teach some kind of adult class on Saturdays or Sundays.
Then there’s the community service branch. That’s pretty broad, so I better break it down. I help with a program to provide food to underprivileged students, I volunteer to oversee a mission trip, and I motivate, encourage, and supervise community service by teens both at school and church.
Each of these branches have rings for each year they’re in existence. And each ring tells its own story. Did this branch get plenty of water this year or was there a drought? Did the wind blow too hard to the right this year? Did this branch struggle to get sun because of another branch?
Now, how full is that tree looking just with fruit producing branches? There isn’t any family, friends, or fun included on this tree.
Everything on this tree is good. Everything on this tree produces fruit.
Healing a Heavy Tree
But then God comes walking through the orchard. He’s looking at each tree. He stops and sees all the fruit on this tree.
He looks at the branches, hanging low to the ground. Bent to the point of breaking.
He sees quite clearly that the branches can’t bear any more weight, even good weight, let alone produce any more new fruit.
So He lovingly relieves the tree of its burden. He removes the excess weight. The branches that are sucking the very life out of the productive tree.
Just like the gardener in the peach orchard, God does this to allow His children to produce even more healthy fruit. It isn’t to hurt them or take something they love away.
I just wonder.
How many of us keep going to the burn pile, the pile of pruned branches, and snatching back the very things he relieved us of?