“Pruning seems counterintuitive,” my friend points out in her hesitation. “So I cut back this main stem on my zinnias and dahlias? Are you positive?” I reassure her, “By pinching back that lead stem, your plant will branch out and produce more blooms, and they will be luscious.” Sometimes I too forget this truth and that same hesitation seeps in my gut. If I forgo pinching them back, I could have flowers earlier like the neighboring flower gardens. However, I also neglect the beauty and bounty that can only come from pinching and pruning and trusting in the process.
My soul is the same way–wild with impatience wanting the fruit, the flowers, the blessings from the Master Gardener more than the walking with the Gardener himself. As I abide in him, he prunes and pinches what could be blooms for unspeakably more glorious ones. Jesus said that he is the true Vine; apart from him we can’t produce any fruit.
Eugene Peterson puts John 15 this way,
“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.”
To rest is to abide in the true vine, to make our home in him, because that longing to be known deeply and intimately can only come from being attached to him. We were given hearts that long for home, a home only Jesus prepares.
What gets in the way though is when good things are substituted for the greater thing, when the smaller stories under the sun clouds our eyes from the greater story being unfolded above the sun. We lose sight thinking obedient children, healing from sickness, successful ministry, fruitful marriages are the point when they are really just first blooms or second blooms.
Raising children who love Jesus has nothing to do with abiding, neither does getting healed from cancer, or being selected to lead up a ministry. Rather, it is through spending time with Jesus, knowing the Father, dancing with the Spirit that I abide and know God. Do I recognize that in my abiding, I come to know my Maker and get to display his glory?
What if the hard road you are walking is part of God’s glory waiting to spill forth in you? What if that glory is not accumulated in material blessings, like right relationships, a clean bill of health, or financial prosperity? Rather, what if God’s glory, his promise of turning the thorn bush into the juniper and the briar into the myrtle actually requires hard pruning of the soul, and that hard pruning comes in the form of abiding in the Father?
Am I willing to be pruned when I am given a cancer diagnosis, when my child is rebelling again, when the depression is not lifting, when I am wrongfully accused? Will I allow this pruning to happen, because it will allow for the unfolding of God’s deeper, bigger story? Or will I demand the gifts he gives, the blooms on the flowers without ever spending time with him? Do I equate God more with his blessings, or with the promise of who he says he is?
Which do I want more, to receive the gifts and blessings and avoid the labor of being pruned or to abide in and intimately know the Giver of the gift?
Jesus came to earth to bring about the Father’s glory, even if it meant he would forsake being in the perfect home of the Father’s love. He put divinity on display through sacrificial love of dying and laying down his life, being separated from the Father. He knew the intimacy of the Father, and nothing on earth could quench that intimacy except through relationship with Him. For him, the fruit was not in a “successful ministry;” but, through this intimate abiding in the Father.
My heart longs to be known, for someone who wants to hear what I’m feeling, thinking, grieving, to see me and fill that deep ache. I have been created with a Jesus-shaped heart, which means only he can fill it. This can only happen through abiding in Him, and if this means I need to be pruned so I can come further up and further in into His home of perfect intimacy, I want it.