This week the Lord cut away from my life something I treasured, something that seemed right for me, something I loved and enjoyed. The wound is still raw. This was no simple snip to remove a withered leaf or dead twig. This week’s pruning required great patience on His part—and sharp power tools.
I’ve been here before. I should be getting straight A’s on these types of tests by now. I recognized the silence of God in this area of my life. I was disheartened by the absence of His peace and blessing. The inner restlessness and the struggles that stole much-needed sleep were sadly familiar, too. And yet, I resisted God’s invitation to trust Him for something better. The valley between good and better yawned too wide and too difficult. Ignoring my discomfort and discontent, I nodded no in response to His nudge. "Hadn’t I been through enough already?" I asked the Lord.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:1-2)
I think it’s interesting that the pruning season for trees arrives after the leaves fall. My calendar says that’s the time to shop, buy, and add more stuff to my life. Yet the seasons that God created tell me just the opposite: It’s time to trim down and let go.
There have been times when God’s pruning scissors sliced away unwanted, wiley growth in ways that were beyond my control. In those instances, I didn’t have any say in the matter. I didn’t have a vote. My only choice was either to be bitter or to let God work through the pain of the loss to make me better.
But this time, the letting go was different. This time around, God waited for me to set aside my plan on my own. He waited for me to trust Him. He waited for me to obey Him. The longer I procrastinated, the more miserable I became. And yet, He waited.
I asked Him to handle it for me, to intervene on my behalf as my valiant Warrior Almighty Sovereign Father for whom nothing is too hard...Sigh…He didn’t. I asked Him to change the situation. He didn’t. So, because I was afraid of what waited on the other side of surrender, there was a standoff. Note to self: God always wins the who-isn’t-going-to-blink-first game. He waited for me to bow willingly to His shears and to trust His eons of experience of tending His vine.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing. (John 15: 5)
I’m learning that God only removes things in my life—a job, a relationship or whatever—to reshape me. His reason for pruning me is to make room for healthy growth and, at the right time, to produce fruit that nourishes and lasts. The distractions and death traps that I allow to remain only steal life-giving energy and blur my focus of the Lord’s better purposes for me. I’m learning—again—that the good has the power to siphon life away from the best. The result is that I become stunted, I become shorter and squattier in spirit than He designed me to be. I don’t want to be squatty in spirit.
So, why am I gazing downward today, looking at what has been lovingly lopped off and longing to reattach it somehow to my life? Why do I pine for the good past when my Father has told me that the best is yet to be? I want to get better at keeping my focus on the compassionate eyes and nimble fingers of the very capable Gardener, my Heavenly Father, and not on the people, projects and places He has removed from my life.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:7-8)
I believe this recent, terrible trimming-back is intended to help me grow and become stronger and to produce the kind of fruit God looks for in me. My only role in all of this is to remain in the vine, that is, to stay connected to Jesus, by talking with Him, listening for His direction as I read His word and doing the next right thing. As I do so, my Father, the gardener, will cover the stinging, raw wounds caused by His pruning shears and will heal those painful places where He has cut away the seemingly-good-but-not-best from my life.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:11)