There's that passage from John 15: 2 that explains a lot about the human condition and the reality of suffering around us: "He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit."
One undergraduate student we worked with was good in many ways, including being smart, having an engaging personality, being articulate, and being positive. He looked just fine — except for a crop of unruly brownish-blonde hair that he tamed in a rubber-banded pony tail extending past his shoulders. Since one of the requirements in his program was to find an internship experience, he was on the sidelines as more and more of his classmates easily landed terrific internship opportunities that could — and did — lead to jobs. However, our student in point didn't fare as well. Each of us told him in our own way and in our own time about the importance of appearance and cutting his hair. Finally, after several months of no internship success, we heard that he had been offered an internship. His next time in front of us brought a young man who looked and acted great in every way, including a haircut that complimented his natural upbeat personality. He needed to be pruned in order to taste success.
Pruning is painful. All that deadwood hair that was superfluous to business standards needed to go. Pruning his hair shaped his growth by allowing him to rise higher in his career pursuits.
It's the same with the rest of us. We might not understand why a friend gets cancer or why a co-worker gets laid off or why daily life seems like a total challenge today and beyond my strength. Chalk it up to pruning so that we can bear more fruit. Our model, Jesus, preceded us and knows how it felt.
[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati, Ohio.]
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