Life Lessons from a Cherry Tree

A reflection I shared for a recent prayer night around what it can look like to cultivate things in our lives.

As many of you know, we were brand new to Kelowna RIGHT before the pandemic hit.  We had moved on 3 weeks notice, rented for a while a midst looking for a house and moved into our house 3 weeks before Christmas 2019 with hopes of a new year, with new relationships and an opportunity to have our table crowded with people.

Because the weeks of inviting people over into our home & into our family were short-lived, we spent 2020 slowly settling in.

Part of that settling in process has been learning to care for the MASSIVE cherry trees we have in our back yard.  And when I say massive, I mean massive.  Trunks that are almost 3 feet around, and they are both in excess of 15 feet high.

As we learned to care for these beautiful trees, our very helpful neighbour began to share her advice with us. She’s in her 80s and grew up on an orchard down in East Kelowna.

So, as we entered into fall, I would heed her advice; “do this”… “don’t do that.” “When am I supposed to prune them? … How much do I prune?  … Are you sure? ….That seems like a lot.”

Every time I would pull out the ladder or climb up the branches, I would cut and prune away any branch that was pointed vertically, as she told me to do.

I would jump out of the tree and the next time I would see her, I’d ask, “How did I do?”  And she would usually respond “You could still do more.”

Well, we finally got to the point where I thought, there’s no tree left here. This is ridiculous. And Hilda wasn’t around for me to check to see if I had gone too far.

But, a few days later,  I heard, from our other neighbour, that I had done, ‘just right’.

What I am learning about producing cherries, you have to cut and prune away the branches that the tree itself is building into, pouring energy into and growing…. So that the best strength, the best fruit, the best growth can be cultivated, as the tree stretches out instead of up.

For us, as we consider our own personal spiritual growth, where are we putting in energy and growing? It’s possible that our growth is actually taking us away from the better growth; growth that leads to the best fruits, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… (Galatians 5:22-27)

For my cherry trees, they are actually quite like us.  You see, there are branches that grow straight up; reaching and grabbing for sunlight and growth, but those aren’t the ones that produce fruit. Now, the tall reaching branches look impressive, create height on the tree, have extra greenery, but they don’t produce great fruit. In the same way, we can reach and grab for growth that looks impressive and that is pleasing to the eye, but our fruit isn’t going to be as good or as valuable as it could be.

I shared this pruning story with a few others a few weeks ago, and the image, for me, only got stronger as I visited with a fellow pastor on a podcast that was published on April 28.

He referenced spiritual growth and a Cloud and Townsend book called How People Grow. And on the book cover, there is a beautiful cross cut of a tree where you get to see the tree rings.

Drawing all the connections together:

Imagine if Jesus is that core, at the centre of the tree rings (because, as an amateur arborist I had to google it just to confirm) it’s the core and tightest rings at the centre of the tree that are the oldest.
Imagine with me that you, as a connected branch to Jesus, are then constantly reaping the benefits of Jesus at the core; ever expanding, sending more food and nutrients your way. And then there’s the gardener, who, as you grow is trimming off shoots that are impacting your growth. Those shoots could be good, but they are stealing energy and nutrients from your best work. You pick something to grow in, but, like the cherry tree, not all growth is good for yielding fruit…. So the Father prunes it back, and says, trust me, the harvest is coming.

The Spirit, in partnership with the nutrients of Jesus at the core, is bringing to fruition, what will be an abundant harvest.

Just imagine with me.

When we think about cultivating growth and harvesting fruit, I know that over the years, I’ve put my hand to alot of good things. Little shoots have come up, done the job of capturing maybe what I need in the moment (as shoots on a tree grab light and CO2), but those things then are pruned back. They were there for a moment but the one caring for me, as a branch on the vine, says, “let me do the work and you’ll see the fruit”.  Jesus, at my core, through the work of the Father and the Spirit, is giving me all I need.

What gets me so excited, is that, because of the years and years of proper pruning on the cherry trees at my house, I’m able to be a blessing to so many friends, neighbours, co-workers and even enjoy some the fruit myself.

Likewise, we have an opportunity to place ourselves in the hands of the Father, nourished by the Son & worked on by the Spirit, to be a blessing to so many of those who are around us.  We can look back to Jesus, at the centre of our tree rings, consider the nubs where a shoot was trimmed off, and know that the Spirit is doing a work in me for an amazing harvest.

As you consider the fruit you hope for in your life: How is Jesus at the centre, constantly expanding and pushing our growth to nourish you more and more, year after year? What do your tree rings look like in your life as the work of Jesus has expanded year over year in your life? What shoots has God trimmed away?  How did they contribute to growth then, but you’re now focussing on other new growth that is better? 

A Prayer:

God, show me my tree rings.  Help me to recognize growth that was for a season. Give me eyes to see the fruit that You’re going to bring about in my life in this season of harvest.  That you would receive all glory, honour and praise.  Amen.

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