God’s Pruning Me—And It’s Not Fun

Growth (126/365)
Creative Commons License photo credit: LifeSupercharger

I heard a sermon a few months back about the idea of pruning.

At the Bernard house, we’ve learned the hard way that when plants, trees, and shrubs aren’t probably trimmed at certain stages of growth, they become unwieldy messes. Their limbs climb high and awkwardly or stick every which way.

During the last five years, we’ve lost three trees (or substantial sections of three trees) in storms because of our lack of pruning.

Yep. We’re pretty lousy at landscaping, but I digress. (Ahem.)

God, however, is a pruner and a refiner. He knows the right time to clip and crop. He knows how to shave away the awkward stubs.

He knows that dead limbs are hollow nutrient sucks, robbing life from our root systems and preventing real fruit-bearing.

He knows when and where to cut in order to maximize growth.

Ugh. This pruning is hard work. And painful. It’s just easier to let the landscape of our hearts go unattended, isn’t it? (It is in the Bernard yard, that’s for sure.)

For those of us in Christ, we know how our stories end.

But the stuff in the middle? That’s the hard part, right?

I’ll be honest. I’m having a tough summer. Maybe it’s the heat mixed with my kids’ boredom that parches my soul. But I feel particularly thirsty now. I’m counting on my “wild vines” to reach every which way, hoping to find water. When I’m parched, I don’t take cheerfully to pruning.

Yet I submit to the process. Sometimes willingly. Sometimes reluctantly. But I submit nonetheless.

So, what’s God doing?

God is cutting away the superfluous so that I must rely on the slating flow from my roots—his roots—the Living Water.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. —Romans 5:1-4 (ESV)

Oh, and it’s hard. That whole chain of suffering—endurance—character—hope stuff? Couldn’t I just skip that? Because I’d rather get a leaf or two damp than depend on God for sustenance during radical surgery.

But I pray:

God, you show me. You prune me. When I try to medicate with mindless entertainment, show me. When I medicate by stuffing my emotions and emptiness with food, show me. When I medicate by trying to rustle up my own self-worth by engaging in some behavior that’s self-serving and self-congratulatory, show me. Prune me. I want to endure the hardness of the pruning so that I may eventually possess hope.

God, may Jesus be my everything. Take away all my crutches so that Jesus can be my sole support.

Prune those stray branches that are nothing more than death wrapped in empty promises.

Amen.

How does God prune you? 

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What’s Your Focus for the Journey?

Yesterday’s sermon was a piercing one for me. My pastor said something along the lines of this:

I simply want to be focused on God himself—not on the destination of the journey on which he has me.

That has resonated in my soul for the last 24 hours or so. Because I, too, am on a journey. I feel completely and chronically unsettled. I’m not always sure what “great thing” God wants me to do. Mostly, I’m convinced I am to be “ordinary” and, honestly, that frustrates and bores me.

But it’s not about the end result, the final outcome, the next big thing, or penning the Great American Novel. Why?

Because I already possess the highest prize and the greatest of glory, as I identify with Christ. This journey is not about me, and it never has been. Yet I continue to obsess over the details of the trip, as if one ounce of my planning, my ideas, my energies, or my participation can affect the outcome.

What is the secret to this life? Well, I paraphrase from another pastor, to whom I listened recently:

The secret to this life is really easy. It’s a continual decrease and decline of self so that you become invisible and people only see Christ, not you.

My prayer is that as I decrease and Christ increases, I would more desire the things of God.

And so, I continue the journey, struggling against my sin to move forward in blind faith, while craving so badly an inch of control. With everything I have, I want to engage in cause and effect behavior.

Yet God saves me from myself, moment by moment.

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Spruce Up Your Spiritual House and Lose the Guilt

I know that fresh starts don’t happen in a vacuum. Some “fresh starts” explode with an initial colorful bang then wimper to their death. Some never get off the ground at all.

I propose that a “fresh start” failure is directly linked to one’s relationship (or lack thereof) to Christ.

As a professing Christian, I say that Christ is my life.

Christ is my life.

Wow. My “life’s” not my physical well-being, my wardrobe, or my Facebook page. Not my husband, my kids, or my dog. Not my job, my intellect, or my reputation.

No. All I am is Christ. All I must desire is Christ. I depend on Christ for each and every breath I take. I depend on Christ to hold this universe together and plant my feet on the floor each morning.

Christ lives. Outside of me, in spite of me, because of me, inside me.

As my pastor says so eloquently, Christ is my animating center.

So … as I reach #4 in my list of 31 Ways to Give Your New Year a Fresh Start, I must not hurry past this absolute and integral piece to newness of life:

4. Die to self (and selfish, self-centeredness); live in Christ.

A zealous, continual, renewing pursuit of Christ and all his riches is my primary aim this new year.

But …

One caveat.

I refuse to be enslaved by guilt when I mess up and fall short. Guilt is a paralyzing and toxic detriment to spiritual growth.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at some practical ideas for pursuing Christ daily.

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Is Christ your life? If not, what is?

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