When Marj and I lived in Fruitland, Idaho our entire backyard was surrounded by raspberry bushes. They were a sight to behold. The difficulty with raspberries is that they can ultimately take over your backyard if you don’t continually maintain them. I believe the process is called pruning. It takes a lot of work. The people who lived there before us were raspberry aficionados. Those raspberry plants had been manicured to perfection. Our first summer in Fruitland we harvested a bountiful crop. The second year, the raspberries reproduced, but they weren’t nearly as comely to the eye. By our third year, the plants were in complete disarray.
My brother-in-law, Dan, from Abbotsford, British Columbia, happens to be a raspberry farmer. When he came to visit us he was aghast when he looked at the horrors that had overtaken our raspberries. It was a sight to behold. He explained that raspberries must be pruned on an ongoing basis, and you have to actually eliminate a certain amount of raspberry plants in order to have healthier and more fruitful plants that produce larger fruit.
So he started teaching me how to prune raspberries. When he put the shears in my hand it was like putting a surgical scalpel in the hands of a person with the shakes. I was inept. Dan kept trying to teach me, and I just didn’t seem to get the knack. Finally he said, “Go in the house, watch a football game, enjoy a cold beverage, and let me do it.” And there was the professional raspberry farmer, Dan Neufeld, cutting, pruning, eliminating plants, manicuring, and restoring our raspberry plants to proper specification. By the way, we invited Dan back the next year so I could watch football, and he could prune raspberries.
Relationships and personal development – like raspberries – take work. There are some things in our lives, in our relationships that need to be pruned back, and some things that we need to remove. Even the things in our lives that are effective, productive and fruit bearing still need to be pruned. There’s a thin line between being passionate and being overly zealous about things. There are times we have to ‘prune’ our attitude. There are things in our life that are destructive, in fact the scripture says ‘little foxes’ are the seemingly insignificant things which are spoiling the vineyard.
What is it in your life that needs to be pruned or removed? What’s been growing in your vineyard that is hindering the effectiveness and productivity of the other plants? What abilities do you have that could actually produce more fruit if you would just be willing to prune them?
We are all called to produce fruit. Good fruit and fruit that will remain. Relationships and personal development take work. Left alone, they will eventually overwhelm the landscape of your existence. Left without pruning, you will never fulfill your potential for producing great fruit.
Ultimately it’s important to recognize that we are called to oversee the pruning and removing processes in our own individual lives. Not in our partner’s life; not in our friends lives; not in the lives of other people. Many of us seem to walk around with pruning shears as if we know what needs to be cut back or removed from somebody else’s life. That does not lead to healthy relationships.
So, I want to ask you, what does your vineyard look like today? What are you producing? What are the hindrances that need to go, and what could you do to maximize your effectiveness?