I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:1-2 (ESV)
Oh, how I want to bear fruit! I want my writing, my speaking, my living to be purposeful, to make a difference. To plant comfort and solace, strength and encouragement, hope and love in peoples’ lives. To see light break through and darkness flee. To have my own soul become a reflection of His as I grow in love and joy and peace.
But oh, that abiding and pruning! I open my Bible early in the morning and my mind races away. It flits like a hummingbird, seeking nectar from my to-do list, politics, work, the dog that is coughing, my husband, asleep upstairs, my children. Incline my heart to your testimonies (Psalm 119:36), Lord, because my heart has a mind of its own. Help me abide. Nestle up to you and receive my nourishment from you. Stop flitting and start focusing and receiving all that you are.
And the pruning: Lately I’ve been on the receiving end of his holy pruning shears. My work. My health. My relationships. My finances. My house.
Sandy was just the latest. The superstorm sideswiped Virginia on Oct. 28-29, delivering its main punch to New Jersey and New York. But her glancing blow to the Mid-Atlantic brought down a 100-foot red oak behind our house. The huge tree carried two more oaks to the ground with it, hitting our screened-in porch and deck before slamming into the ground just next to our house. I picture three buff angels shoving it westward a couple of feet, just enough to miss us. Thank you for your mercy, Lord. It could have been so much worse. We have a big mess to clean up. And lots of firewood for next year.
The pruning hurts. A cancer scare. A routine screening procedure that goes awry, sending me to the ER and a four-day hospital stay. My mother’s cancer. And my husband’s. Loss of work hours. Loss of income. Loss of … ok, I admit it…pride in my position.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares, the LORD. (Jer. 29:11-14a)
Pruning has a way of clarifying my priorities. Reminding me of Whose I am. Focusing my heart. I’m so grateful for that. Because there’s nothing like pain, few things like despair, to drive my seeking until I find myself deep in his arms, where I’ve been all along.
Whom have I in Heaven but you, Lord? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)