It’s the Pruning, Stupid!
The redbuds are blooming in Atlanta. My husband tends our lovely garden and he had to wrestle me before I agreed to allow him to prune the young crepe myrtle you see in front of our redbud tree. He’s much wiser to the ways of plants and he knows that pruning makes trees beautiful and lush when the season comes for growing.
I’m learning about pruning from a spiritual perspective right now too. In John 15:2 Jesus said, “[God the Father] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” When I read that verse this week so many things began to make sense!
I have been feeling cut off from all the pretty branches of my life that were giving me security in another time—the mommy branch that anchored all activity while my kids were young, the daughter branch that dwelled in the security of parental love before my parents died, the career branch that validated my gifts and talents until I retired from radio—all of these now gone. I was removed from friends and the safety of my church family in our move to our new home here in the south.
When the shock wore off, I began to wonder if I was being purified, as in the refiner’s fire. With all the trappings of my identity stripped away, I tried to bend to chastening and spent many days and months reflecting on the deepest darkness of the past. But again and again the Lord brought me back to his grace and filled me with his assurance that I am forgiven and my faith is pleasing to him. I hope you’ve learned that too. One confession is sufficient to access his lovely forgiveness and mercy. But even more than our confession, it is our faith that pleases him. We think that faith is about doing great things for God. Or we think it’s about abasing ourselves before him in abject repentance and dependence. Sometimes faith is habit and practice, simply agreeing to pray whether you feel like it or not. Those things are all part of the life of faith. But when it comes to pleasing God, the faith itself is his aim.
So I’m learning that pruning feels a lot like discipline from God, but it is different from correction. When you desire to please God, his correction becomes comforting as the 23rd Psalm says that it will be—the rod and staff of our Good Shepherd bring us back where we need to be and keep us from drifting off the right path. But pruning is distinct and the key to my new understanding is the fact that Jesus says God prunes the branches which bear fruit! That’s such an important aspect to accepting the pain of pruning. I miss those pretty branches! But I have been wondering if the Lord removed all those things all at once because I had placed faith in them, or loved them more than him, or some other wrong attitude of my heart.
No, he says. You bore fruit as a mother and daughter, and in your work and friendships–to the degree that you remained in me and I in you (John 15:5). But in order to make you more fruitful, I must prune you.
So here I stand, looking and feeling kinda stumpy, like my crepe myrtle. I’ll admit that most days, I have been wishing I could be adorned like the redbuds around me. But today I am happy to know that the Lord has pruned me for his good purpose.
I’m excited now to abide in Christ as the Holy Spirit works to bring forth new fruit.
It’s the Pruning, Stupid!