Do you like to have the correct answer? Do you like to be right?
I like to have the right answers. I like to know what to do when. I like the gold stars, the affirmation, the recognition, the satisfaction, and the achievements that come from it. If something goes wrong, I like to know why so I can make an adjustment, try again, and keep moving forward in a better way.
Progress not perfection. Momentum. Incremental changes. Process improvements. Compounded development. Acquiring knowledge, wisdom, understanding. Keep trying. Don’t give up. Persevere. Endure. Run the race.
When these are the things that I have been training in, brought up in, and focused on, what do I do when I sense God telling me to remain?
Become absolutely terrified!
I know, that is the wrong answer.
I should be at peace, filled with joy, and looking forward with hopeful expectation, right?
I am so used to making changes when things go wrong. I am afraid not to change because I fear things will go wronger than they already are. Which, will then lead to greater regret that I did not change when circumstances started to sour.
Stay in the same place.
Abide, dwell, and continue for a significant period of time.
John 15: 1-8 (Message)
1-3 “I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.
4 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.
5-8 “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.
Not Prepared to be Pruned
For a while there I felt like a delightful vine, growing and spreading out. Singing a little song in the sunshine, “just keep growing, just keep growing.” Spreading out a little here, a little there, seeing blossoms from buds, and even a few bunches of beautiful fruit.
I just wasn’t prepared for all of that to come to a halt in one swift hack. The growth gone. The fruit felled before full ripening. What felt like beautiful potential, now just gone; lying on the ground to dry and die.
What remains feels so small and insignificant, a simple branch, but not with the same possibility that the days of youth once held.
So I cry for what was; for that which had begun to take shape, and for that which felt so close to realization.
I ruminate over reasons that could have led to this. I clearly must have done something wrong to deserve this. Maybe God is mad at me. Feverishly I repent and confess as many things as I can think of, which is a very long list.
I pray fervently for forgiveness and for the resurrection of those parts that have been pruned. God is a God of miracles and wonder, who can bring life back to what has been lost. Perhaps this is an opportunity for wondrous restoration. This branch of brokenness could be made whole again. He could do it.
The desire to understand why will overwhelm. Knowing God is better than knowing answers. If I always knew why I was suffering, my faith in the Lord would have no room to grow.
Pruned by Love
When I read John 15:1-8 (Message) I see the branches that don’t produce grapes are cut off. The branches that are grape bearing are pruned. Either way there, grapes or no grapes, are going to be cutbacks.
God is not surprised by my troubles. He saw it coming. Me, not so much.
It’s not that I have been ignorant to these verses, I’ve read them many times. I have probably heard several messages about pruning so there can be more fruit, much fruit, abundant fruit. Those messages are much easier to hear in a season of spreading out than when the sting of the shears has halted that season.
It does cause this question to arise, do I believe that there is nothing but love in God’s heart for me? Even if I am trimmed back to a mere stick, can I trust to the core of my being that God loves me, is compassionate, and intends good for my life?
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
I have enough trouble with the whole “be still” part of this verse, that I do not often make it to the “know” part.
As I was sketching out some writing notes the other day, I jotted this down, “to know is to recognize the nature of.” To know someone is to be familiar with their inherent and fundamental characteristics.
Am I familiar with God’s inherent and fundamental characteristics? Can I recognize the nature of who He is? Am I remaining connected to who the Lord is?
In the earlier passage from John 15 it says, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.”
This represents such a deep association between the branch (us) and the Vine (Jesus). A warm, engaged, life giving connection which makes it possible for us to be an integral and fruit producing part of the whole.
The fruit does not come from us, but by remaining in Him, the grapes come when the “Father shows who he is.” The fruit is the work of God displayed in our lives.
Jesus said, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9 (NIV).
As God the Father loves Jesus, so Jesus loves us, and calls us to remain in that love. It is a perfect love. A love that will help us to stay when we want to storm off, to endure when we long to escape, to abide when we wish to avoid and to continue on when we crave change.
To know deeply and intimately, the love of the Lord, is what produces the power to trust God and persevere through the pruning.
Live it Out
Is there anything in your life that has been or that needs to be pruned by the Father’s hand? Have you been trying to produce fruit in your own strength and time?
Are there things you are trying to change when you need to be still, to know, and to remain?
Are you at home in the love of Jesus and love of the Father? Do you feel more like a temporary visitor than a member of the family?
Do you trust when the pruning sheers come out that what will be snipped is intended for good even if you can not understand why?
Take some time today to still yourself. Ask God to reveal to you more of who He is and His inherent characteristics so that you could know the Lord and His love even more.
Dear Reader, I hope that God’s words are at home in your heart. May they settle in and become a warm, comforting place for you. A cozy place to retreat to when the world is cold and bitter, a place of renewal when the days are filled with exhausting frustrations, and a place of warm welcome when circumstances leave you alone.
You are loved, with a love of intense perfection every breath you take, no matter where you are, no matter what has happened, no matter what you have. You have been called. You are chosen. You have been appointed. You are loved.
You are a beautiful treasure and a precious gift!
Pray Through It
Lord, adversity and pruning can destroy what is superficial and what does not bear fruit. We know it is a process that will strengthen us if we remain connected to You.
But Lord, this process is painful and scary. Help us to trust You when we do not understand, when we have no answers, when we suffer, and when we face sorrow over what has been lost. Remind us that the life giving core that sustains us is Your love.
May we come to know You more, enough to be at home with You, remaining in Your love. May we find a new maturity for our joy so that it resembles the joy You have. May the joy of the Lord be our strength to persevere through the pruning.
In the name of Jesus who is the vine that gives life through His love, amen.