“He prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” John 15:12

Outside our home, in a corner where the garage meets the front of the house, I planted a crepe myrtle. It is one of those with the beautiful white blooms. Last year, I noticed the bark turned almost black. As I looked around our cul-de-sac I saw that everyone had the same issue. I talked to my son who is trained in that stuff and found out that a fungus was running rampant on these crepe myrtles. No real cure at this point and if the other neighbors didn’t do something about their problem, then the fungus would be back on my crepe the next season. My son told me to get some dawn detergent and scrub the bark with that solution. On a warm day in February, I spent two hours scrubbing the bark of this crepe myrtle. I finally grabbed my chain saw and did a number on that tree. The old saying about causing “crepe murder” came true. I cut off the black bark. Would it survive such a drastic procedure?

Crepe myrtles really prosper when pruned! Apparently, this allows for the nutrients to flow from the trunk directly into the remaining branches, which allows for greater strength, better blooms, and a healthier tree. So far, so good! No fungus is evident this year. Once again it is full and the white blooms are beautiful.

It is very easy in today’s world for our lives to become cluttered. The clutter does not always appear to be bad; often it appears to be very good. We have enjoyed success, our business has grown, our families are in good shape, our days are full, we have charitable and civic activities, etc. Yet behind the scenes of all this activity, are we really growing as both God would have us and we would really like? Is there a fungus among us?

Plants cannot willingly prune themselves, and unfortunately seldom can we. Therefore, it seems painful when someone else is doing the pruning, even as loving a father as God. And once pruned, we may take on that same scraggly appearance, with a lot of what used to make us look fruitful, gone. Yet after this period of barrenness, the fruit we bear, the flowers that we may produce, and the joy that we bring is greater than ever before.

I assume that you don’t go searching for times of pruning…I certainly don’t. But they inevitably seem to find me. I won’t say that I enjoy them, but I can say that I now understand them. And I learned through the experiences of the past to bear with them during the pruning, and look forward to the time when my branches will spring new fruit. Maybe it is time to take a look at the business of your life and see which things are really bearing fruit, and which are just old ornaments that really don’t accomplish much in our lives or the lives of others. Be sensitive to the times that you need to be pruned and look for ways that you can grow.