I am no gardener. One look at my forgotten borders will tell you that. However once or twice a year I will get a sudden surge of enthusiasm to trim edges and plant bulbs in the hope that something beautiful will burst forth in the summer months. So, it is of little surprise to me that my blooms are never anywhere near as impressive as those of my neighbours, who have lovingly tended them.
We have a lovely rose bush in our garden that is climbing up a trellis, and one year my mother in law cut every single flowering head off and put them in a vase. As beautiful as they were on my windowsill, I was horrified that she had butchered my beloved rose bush. I was convinced that my plant would not survive the massacre, much less ever flower again that year, yet the roses came back three fold a few months later.
I had never understood the importance of pruning until now. You see pruning isn’t just a way to control growth, it is the way to increase it. By pruning a rose, you cause the plant to produce a growth hormone called auxin which helps it to grow to its optimum. Pruning strengthens the very vines that connect it to its life source, the stem, so that when they grow and flower they are able to bear much larger, heavier blooms.
Pruning isn’t just a way to control growth, it is the way to increase it
2017 was a year of pruning for me. We voluntarily stepped back from ministry as we focussed on our family, but the stepping away felt more like stripping away. Who was I if I wasn’t a worshipper on the platform? Who was I if I wasn’t a pastoral leader looking out for our area? Or preaching on a Wednesday morning? Who was I if I wasn’t ‘known’ or ‘seen’ by others? I truly believe that my heart to serve has always been from a place of authenticity, and a desire to make Jesus famous, not myself. But when all the ‘stuff’ was stripped away, I felt exposed, vulnerable and a little lost.
I am a ‘do-er’ by nature. My strength finders list includes activator and achiever, and I like to muck in and get my hands dirty. Even being a stay at home mom, my ultimate life dream isn’t enough, and I run two businesses to keep my mind busy and my bank account in the black. My husband says I can’t sit still for two minutes and he is right. I am constantly flitting from one thing to another, and frequently have two or three tasks on the go at any one time much to his annoyance. But as I gradually reduced my tasks and increased my time, panic crept in.
Don’t panic in the pruning
Stepping away from gifts that I loved was like watching the full blooms of my roses being cut down. I know they are still there, but I wanted them to be connected to the vine, not placed in a vase. I never feel more alive than when I am serving in the house of God, either in worship, preaching or in pastoral care, and I found myself frustrated at serving in my home instead. The pruning season felt painful; I didn’t feel free, I felt like a fish out of water. No longer ‘busy’, I had too much time on my hands and too many thoughts in my mind. I found myself questioning my destiny, my purpose, God’s plans, and during these times of sadness and self-pity I was forced to sit and be still.
Be still and know that God loves me.
Be still and know that I am loved regardless of how or where I serve. That I am perfectly positioned in His will, right here, right now. That my purpose in the Kingdom of God is as important on a platform as it is in a playdate. That my service to my children and my husband is as valuable as any song I could ever sing, or any sermon I could ever write.
And as I rest in the stillness, the pruning season will ensure that my branches are stronger than ever so that I can grow new shoots and produce better blooms.
Pruning prepares for producing
I don’t know what season this finds you in. Perhaps your blooms are budding, waiting to explode in glorious technicolour, maybe you are already in flower, displaying your gifts and fragrancing the world with your own unique aroma, or perhaps your petals are beginning to wane, and you are bracing yourself for the dead-heading. Wherever you are, know that God is working. He is cultivating the ground where you are planted. He is watering the seeds of your faith. He is tending to your shoots and leaves, and He is removing the dead-heads so that they don’t block the Son. You are standing in the light of Jesus, connected to the vine, and as the ultimate gardener, He will remove what isn’t necessary to strengthen you for the next season.
Don’t panic in the pruning, you are being prepared to bring forth beauty.
Go ahead and bloom like never before.
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5