January 14, 2008

Monday Morning Message - Pruned

After a hiatus during the holiday season (Thanksgiving - Christmas - New Year) the MMM is returning. Looking forward to catching up with many of you soon.

It looked good, was a haven for birds, and was, to all outward appearances, thriving but it wasn't fulfilling it's purpose. The plum tree we planted 4 years ago needed pruning, badly. Armed with hand snips, lopping shears, and a small bow saw I set about to change this little fruit tree's future. Little did I know I was the one about to be pruned.

Jesus stated, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." (John 15:1-2)

This particular tree was full of redundant growth which literally was sucking the life out of it. As a happily overgrown tree it would have carried on famously without any attention from me. I'm sure this year would have seen it greener and more grand in stature than ever before. However, a plum tree is not supposed to "look good," it's supposed to bear plums. I know the work I did on that little plum tree has caused stress. Little sprouts were removed, parallel limbs were cut, weak wood was excised, a superfluous trunk was ousted. At the end of the process I looked with some astonishment on the amount of wood I had removed from this little tree. It should make a nice little fire soon.

Even as I took sharpened tools to the wood of this tree I sensed the Lord taking the sharpened tools of His Word and Spirit to the wood of my soul. I too am full of redundant growth which sucks the life out of me. I too would have carried on happily without any attention from the vinedresser. However, as C.S. Lewis has famously stated, "[God] has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense." (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain) He loves me too much to let me run wild and not fulfill my purpose. Sure it is painful when He begins stripping away the things I think are important but because of His love for me and His desire to see me bear much fruit He prunes away those things which are unfruitful.

I was stunned by the intimacy of the act of pruning. It is an intensely personal engagement. It's not something that can be done from a distance. I would literally trace each limb examining and evaluating as I went. Likewise the Father intimately, personally examines our lives. Examining and evaluating every facet. He knows us well. The only difference between the plum tree and me is the plum tree had no say in what I cut away. Very often God waits for us to surrender those areas of life robbing activity. He works with us.

But not always. There are times of intense stress or pain that come into our lives uninvited and unexpected. We often view these as cruel twists of fate but we can recognize them as God's hand at work in our lives, personally pruning away unnecessary or obtrusive involvement. I assure you, I didn't savage that little plum tree because I was angry with it or capricious about it's fate. No, I was intimately involved with it because I know what it is capable of becoming. In it's overgrown existence it would never achieve it's potential or purpose. Likewise, God knows and is involved to see me fulfill that for which I was designed. Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God told His people who were in the midst of a severe pruning, "I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11)

As I pruned that little plum tree I discovered that an un-pruned life is an unproductive life. Extraneous growth may look good but it serves no purpose. This is a deadly trap in a society obsessed with looking good. I also recognized that an un-pruned life is a neglected life. It's easy to just keep rolling along without ever really thinking about what belongs and what doesn't. God loves me too much to leave me that way. He knows what my life is capable of becoming. He's even got plans for me! His pruning work may be painful but it is purposeful and always loving.

How about your life? Got anything that needs pruning?

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