John and I have been blessed to have a small fruit garden in our backyard. One of the joys of living in Southern California is that there is an abundance of amazing fruit all year round. At this time, our fig tree is beginning to show signs of ripening figs, and we look forward to a few weeks from now when we can work on drying and making fig jam.
Sadly, not all trees in our backyard are fantastic. This winter, we were delightedly eyeing an orange tree that had a copious amount of bright orange fruit. The oranges looked rather deformed and lumpy, but we assumed that they would be excellent inside. Maybe they were a heirloom variety. Eagerly we waited for the first to ripen. When the great day came, we picked a few, and excitedly opened them up. The first thing we noticed was that they were a pale yellow inside, not at all like navels usually are, they also had precious little pulp to the amount of lumpy skin around them. when we took a bite, we were even more shocked. Instead of the sweet, juicy fruit, they were as sour as a lemon with a bitter aftertaste. They left much to be desired.
As we talked to more experienced gardeners, we found out that navel trees are grafted on to a wild root. As long as the gardener keeps back the wild root from sending up it's own shoots, the tree will produce delicious fruit from the graft. But if the wild root sends up it's own shoots, and they are not cut back, they will produce a nasty, bitter, sour fruit that is only good for compost. In fact, the tree would be so busy sending it's energy to the aggressively growing wild shoot, that the grafted side will only produce one or two good fruits, which was the case for our tree.
Since we have been living with fruit trees, I am realizing the importance of pruning. Jesus used the illustration of pruning when He spoke to His disciples, just before He was crucified: "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:1-5).
So often we let our own desires crop up like the wild root, ready to produce bitter fruit. Selfishness, pride, indolence, greed, the list of bitterness can go on and on. Let us let our Master Gardener to prune away our bad habits and desires. "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples" (John 15:8).