By Kathleen Billings
In the dead of winter, my husband pruned the 53 vines in our quaint family vineyard, lovingly named: Frutto Della Vite, Italian for “Fruit of the Vine.” As Troy was out there chopping, cutting, making a gnarled mess of grapes vines, I watched him through our kitchen window and reflected on the spiritual significance of what my husband’s labor of love imaged for me. Through that window, I saw clearly how his aggressive pruning of the grape vines was really a vision set before me of what God, the gardener and keeper of my soul, desires to do to me—PRUNE THE VINES OF MY LIFE. Viewing nature through the eyes of faith can teach us a considerable amount about the interior life of our soul.
As Troy walks through our vineyard and prunes the vines, he not only cuts off diseased branches that if left unattended will infect the entire vine, but he also chops off perfectly healthy branches. I am sure it is obvious why he chops off the diseased branches, but why cut off perfectly healthy ones? Too many branches growing on the vine does not allow for optimal sunlight to hit the budding grapes, thereby yielding a smaller harvest. What’s more, a plethora of branches does not allow the vine to harness its energy on making grapes. Instead, its energy is divided among all the healthy branches just to keep them alive.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE INTERIOR LIFE OF OUR SOUL?
Simply stated, everyone has healthy and unhealthy branches that need pruning in order for their soul to be strong and produce abundant Godly fruit. A diseased branch might be an unhealthy relationship that clearly pulls you away from God rather than inspiring a Godly life. It could be an addiction of any sort—eating too much food, watching too much television, overusing social media, engaging in pornography, drinking an unhealthy amount of alcohol, etc. An unhealthy branch could also be a bad habit that is little by little taking away from the beauty of the life that God is longing to create in you and instead has created an unhealthy attachment to someone or something. What diseased branches need to be cut off in your life?
So what about those healthy branches? This is a hard one for me! Healthy branches are the activities, and/or relationships that in and of themselves are not bad, but they are taking away from the energy you could otherwise put into developing the beauty of your interior life and relationship with God. There are so many good things to be involved with, so many worthy causes to volunteer for, so many great people to invest your heart and time into, but you have to set boundaries for yourself if you hunger for a healthy spiritual life. Pray about what activities in which you should invest your time. Ask God to show you what relationships you should truly build and which ones are blips in your life for a season. In the same way that having too many branches on one vine prevents the sun from shining on the budding grapes, having an abundance of branches on the vine of our life does not allow God’s love to fully penetrate our hearts. What healthy branches need pruning in your life?
Sometimes there may be branches in your life about which you question their integrity. Ask God to cut them off if they are not healthy for your soul. Recently, God cut off a pretty big branch in my life and that of my husband that we had hung on to! There were two couples that over the past few years we had spent a decent amount of time with at various gatherings and parties. Both of these couples are good people, with big hearts and love of God, but morally we were not aligned on many levels. Keeping up with the demands of friendships that were not spiritually aligned with our hearts took time and energy. For awhile, I felt like God wanted us in their lives to evangelize, and frankly, both Troy and I enjoyed their company and the wonderful parties that they hosted! However, through a series of events, it became clear that God no longer wanted us to invest as much time in those friendships as we had in the past, and He in His way cut the branches. We are all still friends, but there is now a mutual understanding that we are all feeling called to invest our time in other ways. People come in and out of our lives, and activities come and go. The discernment process of our soul is knowing when each branch needs pruning and taking action to do it.
If Troy had not pruned our vineyard when he did, we would have a very small crop of grapes this upcoming summer. For our grapes, proper pruning during a certain window of time determines the outcome of fruit. Unlike our vineyard though, you can prune at any time any branch in your life that you see needs pruning so you can experience optimal spiritual growth! Don’t miss out on the abundance of fruit that God yearns to give you!
About the Author:
Kathleen Billings is married to her best friend, a mother of five beautiful blessings and three more souls in Heaven. She has a BA in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Together with her husband, Troy, they began and direct a vibrant parish based Marriage Ministry called BAM – Building Amazing Marriages. Kathleen has a personal blog entitled seasonsoftheheartandhome.com where she writes about living her faith, in every season, as a wife and mother amidst the ordinary moments each day that God wants to make extraordinary. She is a regular blogger on marriage for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Website and is also a contributing author to the book “Amazing Grace for Mothers.” Kathleen has been an active Catholic speaker for the past 20 years – speaking at days of recollection, retreats for women, retreats for married couples, evenings of reflection and women’s groups.
Photos courtesy of Kathleen Billings. Used with permission. All rights reserved.