Last week the Lord prompted me to do something I never thought I’d do; I gave up a ministry involvement I enjoyed. The decision came after a lot of prayer, counsel and soul-searching, but it still wasn’t easy; not in the least. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, to be honest. Were it not for the last half of John 15.2 I don’t think I’d have been able to. It says there that the Lord prunes away even fruit-bearing branches in the interest and pursuit of more fruit. “OK, then. Take it.” I said, and gave up my responsibilities as Tech Director at our home church.
I’ve been noting my observations this week and I want to share them so you can reach back in your memory and re-use a couple of these someday if you need to. I’m a flower-gardener (one of my hobbies) so I’m going to use my roses to help me illustrate some of these. We’ve not had a frost yet this fall, so these pictures are from this morning. I remember how pretty, but how small early roses were this bush’s first year. Now look at them (you can click the pictures to see larger versions). Careful pruning has played a part in today’s beauty.
- Pruning doesn’t touch the roots. Did you ever notice that? I don’t dig down and slice away a root or two mid-summer. Nor does God do that with us. We are to be rooted and grounded in Him. Actually, HE is the vine, according to John 15, we’re the branches.
- Pruning hurts. Don’t kid yourself. Something you’ve been feeding and promoting, nurturing and enjoying is taken away. You don’t keep the activity pruned. The gardener doesn’t mourn its loss; rather, he anticipates a greater, more fruitful harvest ahead.
- There’s a difference between harvesting and pruning. As I write this, there’s a bouquet of deep red roses on the coffee table in front of me. My wife brought it home after a bridal shower this week; a gift to her because she’s the mother of the bride-to-be. Those roses, had they feelings, would feel honored to be taken from the rose bush to be placed on display for a special occasion. I wonder what the ones felt like that were pruned and tossed so these could thrive?
- There’s a definite sense of un-fulfillment after it’s gone – a feeling of incompleteness. I didn’t get to finish what I started. When we give up things that are displeasing to God, or flat-out wrong, there’s often a sense of relief after it’s gone. Not so with the fruitful.
- Not everyone is going to understand. There’s always that fear of what the other branches will say. Some will understand and affirm your decision, even though they’ll miss you. Others will wonder if the reasons you gave are the real ones or if there was something more you didn’t say. Some will think you a quitter and their respect for you will take a hit in the process. Some won’t get it, and will probably say so. Expect a variety of responses to your decision and remind yourself Who you’re ultimately answering to.
- The wound where the pruned branch was needs to heal up. The loss you sense is real, and every loss requires a grieving process to some extent. I disagree with Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s assessment that her five steps of grieving are steps. She has them rightly identified, in my estimation, but I’ve not found that they are necessarily sequential. The more quickly you can move toward “acceptance” following the pruning process, the healthier you’ll be. Long for it. Ask God to move you in that direction quickly so you can see things from His perspective.
- Remember, you won’t see the desired results the next morning. It takes a while. The gardener knows that and is patient. It’s OK.
- The rose bush doesn’t talk much about what used to be. Neither should you. It focuses on today and the future. So should you. Live faithfully, give the Master Gardener the best you have, and trust Him. Trust Him completely. Read through John 15 again, this time with an eye for the gardener’s role. How reassuring, what confidence comes from knowing He —not I— takes responsibility for my fruitfulness. If you belong to Him the same is true for you.