“I am the True Vine and my Father is the gardener. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” -John 15: 1-2
When I first read this passage, I remember wondering why would God want to prune branches that produce fruit. I understood cutting off what’s dead, but why get rid of what’s growing? As I reflected on the scripture, I concluded that I must not know what the word prune really means. I googled it and here’s what I found:
-To trim by cutting away dead overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth. Synonyms: to thin out, pinch back or shape
– To cut away. Synonyms: cut off, detach, or remove
– To reduce the extent of something by removing superfluous or unwanted parts. Synonyms: reduce, cut back, cut down, decrease, diminish
-To remove (superfluous or unwanted parts) from something. Superfluous synonyms: unnecessary, excess or dispensable
This made me think about the process of getting my ends trimmed. Ladies, y’all know what I’m talking about. Every so often it is advised that we get the ends of our hair trimmed. They call these our dead or split ends. Although getting them cut requires losing a bit of length, it also accelerates the growth of new healthy hair. If you don’t get your ends trimmed, you risk the hair strands splitting all the way up to the root and breaking off. Is saving that little bit of length really worth the prevention and loss of healthier hair? Not really. It’s important that we cut off what’s dead in order to produce what’s new and strong.
Lately, I feel like me and several others have been in a place of pruning. We’re being stretched and challenged in ways that we never have been before and it can get frustrating. I’ve noticed people beginning to grow weary and wanting to give up. We’ve been asking ourselves “why?”, but baby, it’s a pruning season. Know that on the other side of the hard place you’re in is fruitfulness. It’s been trying, but let God shape you. Let Him cut off every dead branch in your life. Everything that’s hindering your growth, trim it away! I know pressing past the barriers isn’t always easy. If it were, then pruning wouldn’t be necessary. Instead, God sometimes uses difficult situations to force the debris out of our lives. Let Him.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” -John 15:4
Often, we don’t even recognize or want to acknowledge what negative thoughts and behavior patterns are holding us back. When we find ourselves in hard places, it is easier to look for externals circumstances to blame than it is to take responsibility for how we feel and use those moments to grow. Know that not every hard place is from the enemy, and it’s in those moments that many of our weaknesses are revealed. However, do be aware that if you’re not careful, the enemy can take God’s pruning seasons and try to use them to discourage you. Remember, the enemy wants you to feel so low that you can’t get back up. He wants you to quit. He wants you to fail, to be angry, to remain stagnant, to live in fear. He doesn’t want you to endure the pruning because he knows you’ll come out stronger. Do people do us wrong sometimes? Yes. Do our situations get overwhelming sometimes? Absolutely. Are we allowed to feel hurt, tired, angry, and upset sometimes? We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t experience those emotions. But every now and again, it’s important to do a deep dive into our hearts and get to the root of why we think, feel, and behave the way we do. That reflection is healthy and it will show us what traits need to go and which ones need to be developed. This pruning process is so important for our personal evolution. I say this all the time, but we really can’t control what anyone else does. All we can do is choose how we’ll respond.
When we find ourselves in those stressful situations (or full blown rough seasons), we can do one of three things:
- Shut our eyes to the pruning that is trying to occur – Change is hard. Admitting we’re flawed is hard. Thinking about our short-comings and the times we’ve been in the wrong doesn’t feel good. It is easier to ignore these things and pretend they don’t exist. But remaining stagnant and in a place of ignorance is a toxic place to be in. Eventually, you’ll ruin a lot of good fruit.
- Acknowledge the opportunity for growth but choose to run from it – Change is scary. I’ve been doing some running, too. But in reality, you’re just prolonging the process. Let God have His way with you and stop pushing it off. He did not give us the spirit of fear. Take that step of faith and trust that He’ll catch you if you happen to fall.
- Embrace the process and put in the work required for us to bear the fruit – This is honestly probably harder than the first two choices, but the reward will also be the greatest. Personal growth is something that no one can ever take from you. We can gain money, status, relationships, and other material wealth, but it doesn’t measure up to building character, spiritual maturity, freedom, patience, and strength.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
Which will it be? Today I’m choosing to walk forward with open arms saying Yes to God’s pruning. A few nights back, I was having a hard time. Deep in my feelings to the point of tears and heaviness (I’ll talk about it in my next post. Stay tuned). In that moment, I couldn’t figure out why it was hitting me so hard and I couldn’t think of anyone I wanted to talk to about it. It was one of those moments where I needed God to just hear my heart crying out without me saying anything. I had no words. All emotion and I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so bad. In the following days, it was revealed to me that there are some habits I need to break, some fears I need to face, and some insecurities I need to overcome to be fully free. I hated how I was feeling, but God was like “now is the time.” He used that moment of weakness to get my attention. I now see that He has been pruning my anxious thoughts and decreasing my impatience. He’s thinning out my superfluous impurity and reshaping my desires. He’s removing the fear, insecurity and desperation that keep me from experiencing that joy He’s intended for me.
So my question for you is what is God trying to prune in your life right now and are you willing to let Him? Are you ready to face it, fight it, do away with it, and stop picking it back up? I’m not saying it will be quick and I can’t say it won’t hurt. What I am saying is that it will be worth it. I also need to mention that you won’t be doing it alone. He will be with you every step of the way. He wouldn’t have nudged you to do it if He weren’t prepared to stand with you through it. You are being molded into the man or woman He has called you to be. He wants to take you to new heights. He wants to use you to influence someone else. But how can you be used to your fullest potential if you aren’t willing to surrender your plans and your ways to His purposes? How can you receive all that He has for you if you’re afraid to be uncomfortable and take that risk? How can you become a better you if you keep making excuses and running from the process? How will you ever become stronger if you never work out? How can you become more patient if you never have to wait? How can you learn to trust again if you never open yourself up to anyone? How can you ever overcome it if you never come face to face with it?
It never feels good while you’re in it, but when you’re flexing in the mirror, I’m sure you’ll be happy about those gains. When you make it to the top of the mountain, you’ll be hot and exhausted, but I bet the view will make it all worth it. There will be moments where you doubt that you’re on the right track. It may look like things are getting worse before they get better, but you have to trust God – even when you don’t understand. The other day I heard this quote: “sometimes you don’t realize you are bearing fruit until someone picks a fruit from your tree”. So even in those moments when you can’t see it yet, know that it is happening. Think about how long it takes for us to see the growth of a tree after the seeds have been planted. Just because we don’t see the roots getting stronger under ground, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Keep hanging in there. Your fruit is coming.♥
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” -John 15:7-8