Reference Point Devotional

Fruitful Work

Along the front of my house are two rows of shrubs. Some years they get trimmed a lot. Some years they do not. Recently, I was trimming some branches that had been damaged by the unusual cold we had last winter. When I took a break, I saw an open space that looked a bit awkward. Some might even say ugly. I looked at my pile of trimmings and saw a lot of dead leaves, but there were also some healthy leaves in there. They just had been growing in the wrong spot, too far from the base.

Sometimes my life feels that way. I wonder what is being trimmed from my life and how much good or dead the resulting pile contains. Jesus says in John 15:1-2:

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. (NIV)

When I read this passage as a young adult, I focused on the branches that lacked fruit. I was trying to figure out where I should live, who my friends should be, and what kind of librarianship was right for me. There were many opportunities and relationships that could distract me from God. I didn’t want to be cut off from Him entirely, so I accepted pruning as a sign that I was growing in the right direction.

As I have gotten older, though, the pruning feels different. I no longer fear being a dead branch, yet at times I resist the pruning that yields the fuller life mentioned in the latter part of John 15:2. I have to remind myself that when an opportunity ends, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it was bad or dead. Some things have to cease before a new thing can begin.

As librarians, we have likely experienced pruning at some point in our careers. Shortly after I earned tenure at a previous institution, I realized that the library’s leadership was moving in a direction of expanded campus service that did not interest me. Regardless of how much I listened to the cheerleaders of this new direction, I could not catch their enthusiasm, and I was confused about what my role could be in the new service model. An unexpected resolution slowly emerged, which resulted in my leaving the institution. My letting go of tenure opened doors to build a family life in Alabama.

Pruning is not an enjoyable process for the gardener or the plants. I blame the pollen, but I know deep down that my opposition to the task of pruning has more to do with being reminded of the pruning God is doing in my life, and the fear of being left temporarily bare and ugly until the new growth fills in. Where is God pruning in your life? Are you focusing on the trimmings that might still have life in them or on the space He is creating for more fruit to blossom? Let us all seek to abide in the true vine and bear fruit to the glory of God.

Sarah Wessel

Sarah is the Managing Editor for the Christian Periodical Index and has been employed by ACL since 2021. She has been an ACL member since 1999 and currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama.