Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Peaceful Pain of Pruning Shears

The Acts 8 Blogforce asks its participants, "Where have you experienced resurrection in this Easter season?" I was stumped at first, bone-dry and tired, with no inspiration. I figured I would sit this one out, as fascinating as the question was. Then, I started thinking about plants.

I am a rotten gardener.  Periodically, I buy a plant and hope to keep it alive.  Unfortunately for the plant, my hopes inevitably fail.  I may water it from time to time, but usually too little or too much.  I don’t understand when to repot a plant, so they end up strangling themselves with their own roots.  I have no concept or knowledge of pruning.  Even the plants that are supposed to survive just about anything eventually kick the bucket if I am in charge.  Luckily, I am pretty good with mammals:  dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, horses, and children do pretty well under my care.  But when it comes to plants, my thumb is black.  So, it’s a little difficult for me to relate to gardening metaphors.  Give me a metaphor about training horses to load in a trailer, training dogs to walk on the leash, or training children to not be wild animals during church, and I can relate.  Pruning branches, not so much.

I suppose the point of the message might be that I am the plant that requires pruning.  If I were a branch, I would a pushy one, that oversteps its boundaries and reaches too far.  I would be the one striving further, growing faster, and grasping out for neighboring plants.  Lately, I’ve been going about 100 miles per hour, 95% of my life is scheduled, between work, kids’ activities, church commitments, exercise, etc, my calendar runneth over.  I like things this way; it makes me feel important and necessary.  I can check things off my list and feel accomplished and valued.  But, the ambition of my little branch is not always what’s best for the entire vine of my family, my workplace, or my church.  Sometimes I need to be told to “settle down”; sometimes I need to be pruned.

Pruning hurts.  It requires cutting off parts of myself, saying “No, I can’t do that,” settling down and abiding in the Lord.  Abiding (waiting) is not my forte.  I’ve got a share of patience for working with young people or animals, but when trying to accomplish a project, I want to get the job done quickly.  It is extremely difficult for me to just be, to abide in Christ, and to grow organically through his love.  I am a product of my overachieving culture, believing that if I do not have a consuming project going on, then I must not be living up to my potential.  It is difficult to wait upon the Lord when church becomes another item on my to-do list.  Today, I had a lesson to learn.

Today, I went to church a little cranky; I went like I was going to work on a Monday, not like I was ready for spiritual sustenance.  I went like I had a job to do.  Then, I heard the Word of God. I heard about how I am just a single branch of a huge vine, not worth much by myself, but worth a great deal when combined with all the other branches.  I heard how in order to bear fruit, I must be pruned.  I must give up all the extra branches I try to produce, all the show-offy branches that are only there to impress the neighbors, all the pushy branches that are only trying to encroach on the other plants, all the unnecessary branches that are sucking up the plant’s energy.  When I give up the extra distractions, fruit will grow.  I heard that I must abide in Christ.  Not DO--ABIDE; not ACT--WAIT.  I heard that without Christ’s love I am nothing but extra leaves fed to the fire.  I heard that without Christ’s love nothing will grow in me; that it doesn’t really matter how much I try to produce, I cannot produce a single berry with my own will.  I heard, and I rested.  

I rested, and cried in relief. I couldn’t speak the words of the Nicene creed, because of the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes.  As I managed my responsibilities so I could check another item off my list, God told me to “Settle down, chick.  Settle down, let it be, and smell the roses.  Or rather, become a rose for others to smell.  Let me help help you grow.”  The knot in my chest loosened, the furrows on my brow smoothed, and the weight on my shoulders lightened.  This, my friends, is what church can do.  This, my friends is what it means to let Christ prune us, to allow ourselves to grow in the love of God. As my inspiration died in my heart and withered on the vine, I found resurrection in the gospel, in the liturgy, in the community of my church. I may be a rotten gardener, but with, God’s help, I pray to be a fruitful plant.

John 15:1-8 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2He removes every branch in me that bears  no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3You have already  been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the  vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who  abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6Whoever  does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done  for you. 8My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

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