“He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit.” (John 15:2b)
It’s really dumb to think you can be perfect, but sometimes I think I have achieved some measure of it. When things are rolling just right
I’m on time,
work is done,
made a list,
followed the map,
said something smart,
was extra nice,
my ego kisses the mirror. It’s delusional, but it happens.
If it was simply about doing things the best I can, that would be one thing, but behind it I know I want to be right…and standing behind that I don’t want to fail…and behind that is a fear of exposure…and behind that is a fear of rejection…and behind that stands a whole row of fear and lies and this my friends is why John 15:2b exists.
Yesterday’s post was all about “non fruit bearing branches.” You get the impression the gardener is trimming whatever is stubbornly refusing to really be a part of His design. I have never wanted to be that person. I have stayed as far away from that line as possible. I have always wanted to live the way the Bible leads us to live but here I read even the ones who are on track, producing fruit, get pruned.
“There is no one righteous. Not even one.” Romans 3:10
No one gets a pass. No individual branch is “right” or good to go, not even one. There is no exception or loophole, every branch is tended.
This could really be fuel for the perfectionist to add to the to-do list, but as I have been reflecting on this, I realize how important it is to remember who is doing the work in this passage. It isn’t me deciding what pet-project to work on today, it is the Gardener pruning. The Gardener deciding what must go, what must change, what needs binding, what needs supporting…it is the Gardener. He can tell: the Vine is One Way and if we are another the Gardener can tell. To anyone else we may seem just fine, but He knows. He knows about the lineup of fear and lies that get in the way of the Life and Freedom He offers. This is not about adding something more, it is about trust and surrender.
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” (Psalm 139:1)
The Gardener looks at me, what is inside of me, and sees what I can’t or what I refuse to. It may be the smallest thing or it may be an elephant but, for my own good and the good of His kingdom, it has got to go. Maybe it can go with one little snip; maybe it will take years but we can be sure that all of us will receive this kind of attention. This kind of loving, hard, patient, persistent attention.
I am 46 and my earliest memories all include Jesus. I have always loved Him and have wanted to be a follower in “right” standing. At the same time, I have always known I fail at this. I am a sinner. At 46 I haven’t stopped sinning but at this age I have a deeper understanding of it. When I was younger, I really thought I could trick the system, but at 46 I know I do not have the capability.
In my heart I see sinful tendencies, so there is no way I could ever accept that I am a “good person.” I can think noble things, do noble things, but lurking there in the shadows is always the ignoble. My confessions come quicker, my admissions are more readily made. My gratitude is more profound. I think I am more honest today then I was when I was 20 and still attempting to be perfect.
I recognize pruning more than I did back then. Here too there is pride, and not the good kind: I ask myself, “Really, at 46 you haven’t learned (interpretation: perfected) this?” No, I haven’t. But at 46 I recognize God’s love mixed in with the pain of His pruning. I still squirm when I see those shears; I wish I sat still right from the start, but I don’t. It taxes the plant to be pruned, that’s for sure, but I do know it is because I matter enough to my Father that He prunes me and this is pretty amazing too. In the end it will be good.
God is all about the good.
One day, as my mother was dying she was very restless. She was literally wrestling in her spirit and asked us to pray for her. I could see the turmoil and I was a little angry with God that this woman of faith should have to experience such a hurdle at this point,
“Really Lord? She has to go through this now? Hasn’t she been through enough?”
And then, some time later this peace washed over her and she said, “I needed to know, am I really forgiven? Is it true what Jesus has said, that He has really forgiven me for my sin? I am really loved? And yes. I am.”
It was like the Gardener could see in her that little doubt and to finish her walk here on earth, for the very last bit of her journey He wanted this branch He had tended for 75 years to be free of that lie, the one that says Jesus is not quite enough and we are not quite adopted.
Fellow sojourner, He prunes every branch, even the ones so dedicated to bearing fruit, so that we will bear more fruit. There is no retirement, no Florida, no “old and useless.”
We are branches planted by the water, roots drinking from the stream, not fearing when heat [or pruning] comes; leaves are always green. We have no worries in a year of drought and never fail to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:8 paraphrase).
Green to the very, very end.
— Teresa Klassen
Must interrupt this series as I head off to India for a few weeks…