I’ve been moping around the house a lot lately, feeling moderately miserable. It’s nothing earth-shattering—nothing that won’t mend in time. I’ve just been feeling a bit of emotional pain.
God’s been after me with a pair of pruning shears.
As a gardener, I’m very familiar with the whys and wherefores of pruning. Jesus must have been familiar with pruning as well. He uses the analogy a number of times, especially in John 15, when he says: “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 so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:1-2, italics mine).
I never really understood this until I learned how to prune grapes. Crops such as grapes have branches that bear fruit for a season and then must be pruned off. They bear on new wood. Branches that have borne fruit in the past, but are no longer all that fruitful, must be removed so new ones will grow.
Jesus looks at us the same way a gardener looks at an overgrown grape vine. If left to our own devices, we’d continue to grow in the same direction, becoming more and more comfortable but less and less productive. And we’re not likely to prune ourselves.
The problem with any kind of pruning is that it involves cutting off living tissue. Chopping off a branch creates a wound and leaves a scar.
Sometimes God prunes us to remove diseased or damaged wood, or because we’re growing in the wrong direction. Other times, we may be right in the middle of God’s will, and yet still require pruning. Even though it is good, it’s definitely painful.
I’ve been pouring my heart into a particular “branch” for a number of years. This has been a Big Deal in my life, and has brought me not only frustration and sorrow but much, much joy. Now my role is changing—I’m becoming more of a bystander, rather than an active participant. In a real way, I’ve worked myself out of a job. This is good. It’s been the goal from the beginning.
But—it hurts. I’m grateful for all that God has accomplished through me, things I could have never done in my own strength or ability. I’m in awe of the fruit that has been produced—beyond what I ever imagined at the beginning. At the same time, there’s a gigantic hole in my life.
Now it’s time to move on and see what my next “assignment” might be. I’m sad… and excited. Part of me doesn’t want to move on. It’s easy to become comfortable in familiar territory, and there are people involved whom I love deeply. On the other hand, I thrive on anticipation, and I know God has good plans.
From now on, however, whenever I head out to my garden with a pair of loppers in my hand, I think I’m going to have a lot more empathy for the vine.