Much of it seems quite violent when you think about it. Thrusting blades into the heart of it breaking it up, softening. Dropping seeds then taking the spade to pack down the dirt. Of course, there is the refreshing coolness of watering the broken ground. The seed dies in the darkness of the dirt, but when it begins to grow, here He comes again, pruning, cutting, discarding, and burning the dead branches. The gardener is characterized completely by his desire for things to grow, but the process of helping things to grow can be quite harsh. So what does it mean then when God describes Himself as the Gardener.
This is not what I want to think about when I think of the Lord. I want to think of the soft touch, not the blades plowing. I want to think of gentility not the sharp blades of pruning. He is all about my personal growth and development, but His tools are sharp and they cut. Have you ever been pruned? Let me tell you, “It is no fun!”
No doubt the blades found their way perfectly. Arrogance, pride, fear, all cut away, but that’s just it-they were cut! Just once I would love to learn my lesson through the coolness of being watered. Of course, when we understand what the water does to the seed, this is also violent if you will. The outer coating of the seed soaks up the moisture and swells until it bursts. Until the bursting, there is no growth.
Whether we are speaking of the bursting of the seed, the busting of the earth, the pounding of the dirt atop the seed, or the pruning and cutting, everything points back to the idea of breaking the hard, outer shell to create a fresh, supple, pliable, teachable state of being. When a seed comes forth from a plant, it is best to pick it quickly because the longer it remains connected to the plant, the harder the outer shell becomes. The longer we stay connected to our old life, the harder the shell and the more difficult to burst forth with new life.
I will certainly agree with anyone who would say that developing and growing in Christ is difficult, painful. I struggle when the Lord points out what needs to be pruned. I struggle to admit it or accept it. This is the sinful nature-pride I have been born with. I don’t want to see those places in me that need to be cut away. I have seen the previous growth and I say to the Lord, “Isn’t that enough?” “Haven’t I grown enough?” “Do we really have to keep cutting, Lord? I’m tired.”
A healthy plant simply goes through seasons and the one thing we know will never stop until Christ returns is the continual rotation of seasons. Pruning is always just around the corner. It’s true that when a gardener takes good care of a plant or tree, the pruning that is so hard allows for more fruit, juicier and sweeter. That sounds great, but let’s look at this. I am continually being broken, pruned, disciplined, so that I can produce fruit for other people. Well…that just doesn’t seem fair to me!
It does reveal a significant truth though. God’s plan for me is not about me being comfortable. In fact, it is not about me at all except that I might be a blessing to others. The Lord never called me to be loved nor appreciated by anyone. But He did call me to love and bless everyone else. When I feel that all of this pruning is unfair, I must force myself into a paradigm shift. Living for myself is not part of God’s plan for me. Living for others is the plan in its totality.
Considering this, the question that keeps rising to the top of my spirit is this: “Do I want to have a comfortable life or do I want to live a life that makes a difference?”
Of all of the funerals I have preached and all the tombstones I have walked by and read, I have never seen one say, “He lived a comfortable life.” In fact, because it is not part of God’s plan for us, the Lord has promised in this life there will be trials and tribulations til the end. The Devil is attacking us non-stop on one side and the gardener is pruning on the other. Comfort is what the Devil promises, but it’s an empty, impossible promise. If we are ever going to find joy in this life, we must adjust our goal. As long as our goal is comfort, we will struggle with disappointment and bitterness. Let’s make our goal to be something great, that makes a difference in other’s lives. This is where joy shall be found.
“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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“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. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. (NIV)
Forgive me Lord when I seek comfort. Pain is so difficult and tough. Sometimes, I long for rest and refreshment in the seasons of plowing and pruning. Let me be patient seeking to be what You desire me to be in the image of Jesus Christ who lived not only moment for His own desires. Help me to be grateful and thankful for the pruning season. When my life is finished, may it have brought Your light into dark places of this world. -Amen