Pruning. If you read in John 15 you’ll see. You must be bearing fruit in order to be pruned. Otherwise you are like a branch cut off.
Pruning towards growth.
Pruning for extension.
Pruning not because you did something wrong but because you are doing something right.
Been feeling like the branch of my life that is E-town Mennonite has been slowly shriveling up. The last 2 years just slowly fading, less and less fruit. What I felt like must be some failure on my part to keep fruit growing, the Lord has generously allowed me to slowly come to terms with the fact that my connection there has changed. It’s felt like a death and I’ve mourned it.
And then I began to make it an idol. Maybe more like an ideal. Here is how this branch should look and if it could look like that then it’s worthy of fruit. If I could just adapt, push through, look past stuff I could help it bear fruit once again.
Full stop. I could help it bear fruit? For real Bethany? Oh so you’re God now? <insert long long eye roll at myself>
Tyranny of the ideal. I heard this on a Wednesday night and I have no idea the background of what the speaker meant for this, but it rocked me to my core. My core.
A deep part of me that had begun to worship this ideal. Spend my time consumed by why this branch wasn’t bearing fruit. What I should do about this? My fear at making the wrong decision concerning the branch. My all or nothing attitude taking over my decisions. My frustration and discouragement at the situations. It was a tyrant in my life. Consuming. Bringing about doubt and along with that worry and anxiety. Fear of being misunderstood. Always, always this fear, the fear of misunderstanding. Sob.
What others will say. What others will think of me, of my family, but yet not enough to motivate me to go back. To participate in the ways of old.
Isn’t that just like a paradox? Ideals that are positive. Things that I know are not of God, things I know the Holy Spirit has called me to not participate in. So on one hand my ideals were helping me take a stand for what God was calling me to, but had also become a tyrant because I so wanted that branch to continue bearing fruit. And if I did this. Or this happened. Or or or.
Until that Wednesday night when I felt God say “How long Bethany? How many times? How much longer will we go around and around about this?” And it was like at that question from God, I threw up my white flag. I told him “I’m done. I won’t question you again over this. I know you’ve spoke. I know what you’ve said. Forgive me. Thank you for your patience and mercy towards me.”
And in that moment I felt the gentle pruning.
The gentle cut.
The loss of the branch that was no longer bearing fruit in my life.
How merciful of Him to allow me to participate in that pruning?
I recognized that night that I have been in mourning. Grieving the dying branch. Wishing, dreaming, recalling past times of good, bringing up precious memories, building up ideals couldn’t bear that fruit. The gardener who knows me so well, better than anyone has a plan, shape, design for these branches.
Every time that week from Wednesday – Sunday it was like every time I wanted to second guess, question, you know give God another idea of what we could try, He shut it down. Reminded me of my commitment on Wednesday night.
By Sunday I was feeling pretty raw and like an open wound. We attended the 10 year celebration of life of a friend who passed away. For me it was like God was parading His goodness, His deliverance, His power, His might all over the place. It was like one big FLEX. And it was humbling. And invigorating. It was like He was saying “I’ve taken this offering, this obedience of the highest call, and I’m multiplying it.” Watch me. Watch what I can do when I am your ideal.
The kicker is as if what God had done after Joel’s death wasn’t enough, it was something during a speech he made years before that spoke to me. What I took from it was that when we are submitted to and living a life with and for God, following Him from one thing to the next as HE calls us it is like going from glory to glory.
Glory to Glory?
Um yeah. I’m pretty sure this isn’t what God thought of glory when He called me to follow. I immediately felt convicted of my miserable drudgery, dragging my feet, giving God ideas of how to do this better. Why did I make this so hard? What about this meant it couldn’t be good? Why is my scorecard the one that determines whether this can be glorious or not.
Good Lord! This can be glory to glory.
And with that pivot in my thinking I just was so grateful I knew what the next glory was. I knew. HE had been showing me for weeks where His Spirit was. Where HE was showing up for me. I knew what the next glory was.
E-town Mennonite was glory. I could remember it as glory, even if all of it and how I left wasn’t very glorious feeling. And I could look forward to the next step as glory, because well He was calling me to it and that in itself is glorious.
Fast forward just 5 short days. I attended a women’s conference at Life Center. And the LORD. MET. ME. AGAIN. The conference was all about gardening and just know that there is a lot of metaphor, allegory, and deep thinking you can do with that.
Did you know that when a tree or bush is pruned – here wait I’ll just give you the internet description I found. “Generally, the more severe the pruning (greater size or number of limbs removed), the greater the resulting regrowth. In essence, the plant is regrowing in an attempt to restore a balance between the top and the root system. Pruning generally stimulates regrowth near the cut. Vigorous shoot growth will usually occur within 6 to 8 inches of the pruning cut. This is particularly true for vertical limbs that have been pruned” https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html
The rest of the plant will regrow in an attempt of restoration. Hmm.
Restoring the balance between top and bottom. Ok.
Restoring in an effort to prepare for new growth. To reestablish the core from the roots to the branches. For what? More fruit? Oh God, you are good.
So the place that was pruned is where restoration is directed. And it’s because of the pruning that the core is rebalanced to establish strength from top to bottom. And at the place of the pruning you can expect the new growth? The new life?
Wait from the place you just cut off? Really God. YOU took this from me. You’ve asked me to give up E-town Mennonite, you’ve required that from me. Man, I was mad at God. I’m going to have to put up with people’s opinions because you’ve cut this off. There is going to be questions and explanations and ….
<GOD flagging me down> Glory to glory, right Bethany? I’m here at the site of the pruning Bethany. I’m in the small buds of life right here on this branch.
Can you trust me? Can you trust that this can be about more than a loss? Can this be an extension, a continuation?
A Glory to Glory.
Just wait until you hear about these pots of promise.