Pruning Season

pruning season

July — here, in the Southern Hemisphere, the second month of winter. In southern Australia, this means just-above freezing temperatures, rain, rain, and more rain. It also means pruning season. We’ve inherited several fruit trees and herbs in our garden, and we are learning how to care for them. My husband uses the pruning shears with confidence, while I cringe every time he marks a plant for pruning. Each time a branch is trimmed, I worry that growth will stop, that the plant will be permanently wounded. To me, pruning seems counterintuitive — how can cutting back branches possibly do good? I have seen enough of the result to calm my fears: his pruning only produces more vigorous growth, and the plants flourish.

Before we moved overseas, I felt alive and flourishing. I had a job that I loved. I had a close circle of friends in which I felt significance. I had roles of service in our church, roles that I loved and poured my heart into. With joy, I identified as a friend, daughter, sister, aunt, professor, Bible study leader, body life committee member, soup kitchen chef.

And then, when we moved, I suddenly felt stripped bare, like a pruned tree newly transplanted. My full branches and treasured blossoms were trimmed until I was little more than a stem with several short stubs. Most of the roles I had played were no longer an option, and I floundered. After all those roles were taken away, who was I?

In God’s grace, I stumbled across this metaphor of pruning and roles in a book I read last year called An Unhurried Life by Alan Fadling. In this book, Fadling speaks of the way that God prunes his people through loss. Loss may take many shapes — for me, it was the loss of my identity in what I did. Fadling writes, “And what is the aim of the great Gardener when he prunes the branches of your life and mine? He intends to make our lives even more fruitful. This truth nevertheless implies that seasons will come when a branch looks naked — often just after it had been at least a little fruitful. Any pruning experience, whenever it occurs. can leave us feeling a little puny, naked, and maybe even robbed. We may also wonder if we’ll ever be fruitful again.”

And yet, Fadling says, despite our fears over never being fruitful again, the Gardener knows what he’s doing. Despite the real pain that it brings, it is always for our good. One example Fadling gives is that pruning “enables us to move from producing early and lesser-quality fruit to more mature fruit borne from deeper surrender and dependence.”

When I reflect over the fruit that I was bearing back home, the description “early and lesser-quality fruit” seems apt. Much of my work was done in self-dependence and a sense of needing to validate my own worth and make a place for myself in my community. That is not to say that it was worthless: my desire to serve was genuine, and in his grace, God used my efforts. And yet, I can’t help but wonder what my fruit may have looked like five or ten years down the road if God had not pruned me.

To some extent, I still feel pruned over two years later. I still grieve the loss of many of the roles I once had, and it is taking time to find my place in our new home. Yet, instead of letting the grief turn into bitterness and self-pity, I can find comfort in the one who is not only the master gardener, but also the vine from which my very life comes. Rather than worrying about the amount of fruit that I’m bearing, I’m learning — too slowly! — to abide in him.

Are you or have you recently been in the midst of a pruning season? What good things has God pruned from your life in order to make space for new growth?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


  1. Allysa July 16, 2019

    Wow. Thank you for sharing about seasons of pruning and trusting the Vinedresser during these times. I can completely identify with having many meaningful area and roles in my life back home being cut off when I moved overseas. It was difficult and I did struggle with bitterness and self-pity at that time. However, thankfully I have come to a place of surrender and trust. Recently, I transitioned once again and felt even more pruned than ever. Some of the most meaningful things in my life have been “cut off” for a season. However, I kept hearing in my heart, “Don’t worry, they will come back and be even richer and better.” So I am trusting for that in His perfect timing. I do feel very much like a “naked” branch. However, this branch is intentionally doing everything I can to stay connected to the TRUE VINE more than ever before. So, I can look forward with expectation, that this pruning season will produce much fruit. Good quality, mature fruit. The master Gardener does indeed know what He is doing.

  2. Grace L July 18, 2019

    We have been involved in overseas work in Asia for 20 years, and I know I have gone through pruning seasons. The first time I remember this happening was during my time in Singapore where I lived for 2 years. I do believe that pruning was coming from cross cultural issues rather than losing my identity and former roles. In fact, for me, I was discovering many new roles in my life and was excited about my new identity. But I do remember feeling like I was being pruned and going to the John 15 scriptures and realizing that God was doing this so that I would bear more fruit.

    I have used this reference in working with my local Christian friend here and have used the example of pruning the rose bush so that it would have more flowers. It is encouraging for us to know that when God is pruning us, that He has even better plans for us. Better to be pruned than to dry up and be thrown into the fire.

    If what we get out of a pruning season is to learn to abide in Him more closely, that, in itself, will be the catalyst for bearing more fruit. One of my go-to scriptures is where Jesus tells us in John 15:5 “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” What an important lesson for all of us to remember. And His promise is that if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit!

  3. Tina July 18, 2019

    Love this! Laura, thank you for your refreshing words and for the camaraderie. I’m putting The Unhurried Life on my booklist now 🙂 Many big blessings to you as you live surrendered to the Gardner’s hand.

  4. Abigail Zhao July 20, 2019

    This is so good! And fun to read something by someone also located in or from Australia. I’m in Australia with my new husband for an unexpected home assignment/sabbatical time. It’s been challenging for me, also feeling pruned. And starting over for a time, craving in real life community but thankful for virtual community all around the world. Even though it may seem very similar, I still am trying to figure out Australia culture, mindset, and how to make friends and find community here in such a big city, where it’s harder to actually find time to catch up with people.

    Thank you again for sharing this.

  5. Rebecca July 21, 2019

    I’m experiencing my fourth summer-in-july and appreciate your words from my home city and country.
    There has been grief for me in the pruning. In the past it was my identity. Now it is some of my dreams and plans as I yield to him. While I know he has better things for me to grow into, there is loss. And lament.
    Thanks for distinguishing this season for me.

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