I have just finished cutting back the vines which grow either side of the patio at the vicarage.
Before you write to tell me – yes, I know that this is not the time of year to be pruning vines — but when we returned to the Puddletown at the end of my sabbatical, I discovered that they had grown so much while we were away, that we could no longer see out of the dining room windows.
Normally I train them as they grow, but left un trained and untrimmed they had simply taken over. Growing in all directions, filling every space, I couldn't help seeing a metaphor for our crowded lives.
Left to their own devices, our lives can often fill up with different tasks and responsibilities. The danger is that, unchecked, and untrained, we simply fill our lives over and over again, layer upon layer, until there is no space left. This is often made worse in our churches by the mantra, often repeated, "If you want something done, ask a busy person!"
In John's gospel, Jesus compared us to the branches of a vine and described God as the gardener who prunes the branches so that they might bear fruit. (John 15)
I wonder, however, how willing we are to allow God to prune our busy lives. Too often we have a tendency to want to hold on to the things we do. We are more likely to try to add something new rather than let go of one thing in order to do something else. The result is increasingly pressured and frenetic activity as we try to cover all the bases.
I wonder what would happen if we were to let have God free reign to prune where he wishes, training and directing our lives as he would want.
One thing I am sure of — that our lives would be less crowded and more fruitful as a result!
Having cut back our vines at the vicarage, I can now see out of our windows, and the light from outside now illuminates the inside of our dining room. It feels a lot less claustrophobic in there as the light streams in. I wonder how many of us would find the same if we would allow God to have his way.