I am not anywhere near an expert on plants. But our greenhouse window stays green. Some people accuse me of having a green thumb, but in reality, my thumbs have very little with those plants in the window. Yes, there is usually a lot of green. But I do not follow all the directions you are supposed to when growing plants.
Some of those plants date back to 1976. They came from a bowl of plants given when my wife’s father died. To be more accurate, there are descendants of the original plants. Through cuttings, pruning, and replanting, I guess I do know some of the technical plant jargon, the plants have kept growing and surviving.
There is also a poinsettia and Christmas cactus, both of which I just let grow on their own without any of the special treatment suggested. Of course, neither bloom when they are scheduled to according to their preferred Christmas seasons. It is kind of nice to have a Lenten, Easter, summer, or Thanksgiving cactus in full bloom – and I have had all of those.
But when the window begins to look more like a jungle, out comes the “P” word – pruning. If I am in a good mood, I carefully cut back or remove just the right branches and stems to encourage healthy growth and to help shape the plant. If I am in a hurry, my approach is much like a six-year-old giving their little sister a hair cut. I chop and pull and break off anything within my reach. My efforts are not of any benefit for the plant.
Even in the midst of my frantic pruning times, I try to avoid cutting the main stem off the plant. Ok, I have done that a few times and the result is most of the plant quickly dies. But I do know the branches need to stay connected to that main stem for the plant to remain healthy and grow.
My faith life is much like those plants in our greenhouse window. I can be merrily going along making choices in my life in response to whatever comes my way. Of course, being sinful, ever so often, well more than ever so often, my choices lead me down the wrong path. My words are hurtful to others; I fail to pay attention to my wife or other family members; I let old destructive behaviors from the past slowly creep into my life; and all of these things cause me to grow away from my Savior, Jesus.
That is when God steps in and starts pruning. In John 15 Jesus 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. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Sometimes when he prunes, God changes easy things in my life. He does that by turning me back to his Word where I learn and find the strength to change my attitudes. He keeps me connected to the only source or true life– Jesus. I become more attentive to others and less judgmental. That pruning is fairly easy and painless.
At other times though, he is more aggressive with his pruning. The way I am living shows the need to cut me off from those things that are harmful to me. It could be a job, or people or “things” I am allowing to become central in my life. Losing these are usually painful and I may not like the loss or understand why. But God loves me and so he prunes.
He does not want me to spend my life chasing things that are not good for me. He wants me to show love for others. God does not want me to return to the sins of my past. He wants me as his own. All because he loves me.
I know that is true because he sent his Son Jesus to pay the price for all of my sins. He did that because of who he is. He let his Son die on a cross because he loves me – and all people. And so he prunes. He prunes so I stay close to him and live a fruitful, growing faith life here on earth. He prunes so one day I can be with him in heaven.
So painful or not, I have but one thing to say – God, prune away.
Hope you come back sometime. I will wait you.