Spring in Texas is my favorite. The new green growth peeking through, buds on trees and plants pushing out, and the wonderful weather. But after Sno-vid hit, many of our Fort Worth landscapes looked bleak and sadly dead. Mine did not escape without some harm. I’ve spent a couple weekends cleaning up the aftermath. I knew it would be best to trim back all of the damaged stuff so I knew what survived the zero-degree weather. While pruning back a huge holly fern, I was saddened by all the scarred, brown matter until —snip! —my trimming revealed several furled green baby fronds hiding among the fallen leaves and debris.
Oh, the joy to find life hidden within a mass of death.
I can’t help but think that’s how God the Creator views His Son in us.
“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:7).
If you are a gardener, you know that “deadheading” or pruning any dormant, diseased or spent blossoms eventually invigorates the plant and prepares it to produce new blossoms or growth. If you don’t regularly prune back the faded flowers, the plant spends too much of its energy on producing seeds within the spent blossoms. When you deadhead, the energy is now freed toward the development of new flowers. Deadheading works and almost guarantees another rush of blooms. And if you didn’t know that, I just gave you some free gardening advice for this spring. You’re welcome.
There’s an analogy in here. Pruning is essential to the Christian, too. Check out these words in John spoken by Jesus, the Master Gardener:
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2-6).
Yet, do we ever ask for God to prune us? I don’t know many of us who pray and ask for things like sickness, job loss or grief to enter our lives. I don’t beg for these things to shape my faith. Yet in any of the trials I have faced, even though they were merely uncomfortable or agonizing, I found myself realizing that I deeply needed Christ. Many times, I try to control and do life on my own, in my timeframe and in my hedonistic style. When everything else in my life is cut away, I can see Him all the clearer. My sanctification — my new growth — comes through this pruning. My idols are revealed through my pain, and I can allow God in these moments to cut them away like dead chaff. I can trust that He won’t hack away at me willy-nilly but will lovingly and tenderly care for me like a master gardener would a prize-winning flower. If I wait patiently in this process, I find my heart has grown more tender toward Him and more empathetic toward others.
If you find yourself in a cycle of pruning, can you trust that He is the good gardener? Can you remind yourself that He is working all things out for your good (Romans 8:28)?
The shearing may hurt for a season but the fruit that follows is worth it.