I’ll admit, I did not like this when I first read it:
“One evening a gentleman who was much depressed because of deep affliction, was walking in a garden, where he observed a pomegranate-tree nearly cut through the stem. Greatly wondering, he asked the gardener why the tree was in this condition, and he received an answer that explained to his satisfaction the wounds of his own bleeding heart. “Sir,” said the gardener, “this tree used to shoot out so strong that it bore nothing but leaves. I was obliged to cut it in this manner; and when it was almost cut through, it began to bear fruit”” (Ellen White, Review & Herald, April 10, 1894).
I’m familiar with the John 15 idea that God prunes us in order to bear fruit. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (vs 2). He may cut away the things that hinder us. But this? To be nearly cut through the stem? Not just a few branches plucked off? It seems so cruel. So dangerous… Wouldn’t the tree be weaker? Permanently damaged?
I researched this pruning practice a little wondering, “Do people actually do this in real life?” The closest I found was something called “scoring.” In scoring, you take a knife and cut into the bark of the tree and the layer under it. Often people make a semi circle around the tree like this, then another semi circle a little further up. Some sources caution you to make sure the cuts don’t touch, or you may kill the tree. You can also go too deep and kill the tree.
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“Caution is advised when selecting trees to score. Weak or moderately vigorous trees may be overly devigorated by the scoring treatment, and this effect may last for several years.” (https://ag.umass.edu/fruit/fact-sheets/controlling-growth-of-apple-trees). Other sources cite this type of method as a kind of “last resort” after other methods of helping the tree to bear fruit have been tried (pruning, soil treatments, etc.). Because basically, if the tree isn’t strong enough, it’s going to damage the tree more than it helps.
So why do this?
“Scoring breaks the flow of nutrients, photosynthates, and growth regulators between the tree canopy and its roots. The score will heal, but prior to healing it will reduce both the length and diameter of the new growth. Additionally, it will enhance fruit set and increase flower bud formation for the next season. Enhanced fruit set will also help reduce growth” (ibid).
In essence, a tree may be growing too fast, or in the wrong directions. It LOOKS like it’s doing great! But the fruit says otherwise. And the way the gardener can stop it and bring on fruit growth is breaking it’s connection with it’s very life-giving nutrients. It sounds harsh! It sounds dangerous! It is. But it I will heal. And the fruit will come.
Do you feel like you’ve been cut? Maybe not just pruned, but cut at your very heart? Your source of life-sustaining vitality? Take courage in two things: first, the master Gardner knows that your tree is strong enough to survive this. He may cut deep. But He will not cut to kill. Second, know that this cutting, while it may seem like a weakening, will produce fruit in your life. Your leaves and growth may not appear as bountiful. You may feel like you’re worse, not better. But you’re actually on the way to more, to deeper, to true fruit.
I know I’ve felt more than just pruned in my life. I don’t always understand the cuts. I’ve not felt like my tree was strong enough for them. They sometimes seem to cut me off from the very base of life-giving things I need. The good things. But I must trust the Gardener. He only cuts to heal.
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).