Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Time For Some Hard Pruning

Dear Friends,

It’s a beautiful Monday morning. A little chilly but the sun is out and it will be a warm Spring day. I put on leather gloves and gather my pruning tools. My outdoor cats gather to watch and meow quietly among themselves as they critique my work.

In order for my rosebushes to have a nice bloom of roses in the spring and summer months, it takes some work. Rosebushes require attentive care. If ignored they will become a tangled mass of dead branches intertwined with unhealthy live ones. Errant shoots will drain the life out of the stems and rob them of their strength and health.

I study each rosebush. Identifying the deadwood. Determining what I want it to look like so that I can shape it accordingly. I think of the parallels with my own life. Is it just a coincidence that the time to prune my rosebushes comes during the season of Lent? When I need to self-reflect and prune out of my life anything that precludes or hinders healthy spiritual growth? 

Some people mistakenly believe that severe pruning causes weak and insufficient growth so they timidly and lightly prune and leave most of the rosebush intact. But the secret to an abundant and healthy rosebush is a robust and ruthless cutting back of the plant that’s called “hard pruning.” 

I get to work and aggressively begin to prune out the deadwood. On a rosebush you can quickly identify deadwood because no new growth is sprouting from it. Nothing new, green and healthy comes from wood that is hard, brown and dried up. It’s difficult to cut out the old dead wood. I use the long-handled pruners and have to apply real effort. What are those old dead things that I still cling to? Dried up old bitterness in my heart? That dry, hard sin of unforgiveness that I’ve held onto for all these years? The gnarled old sin of pride with its roots embedded so deeply in my soul? “..put off..the old man which grows corrupt.. and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) The “old man” is deadwood. Nothing good can grow out of that. It’s time for some hard pruning.

I next cut out any damaged branches. Bent. Broken. Something or somebody did something that damaged it in the past. Maybe kicked or hit the branch and left irreparable harm. They need to be pruned out. Has some part of me been damaged by something or somebody in my own past? Something that left a part of me bent or broken? Maybe left me with flawed thoughts about my gifts and abilities? Pervasive thoughts of worthlessness? Damaged thoughts must be cut back to their roots. It’s time for some hard pruning.

A neglected rosebush can become congested and unattractive. I cut out misplaced stems. The ones rubbing together or just growing in the wrong direction. They are healthy and growing. But these branches are taking the plant in a direction I don’t want it to go and they detract from the overall attractiveness of the rose bush. They are jostling for limited space and I need to choose which ones I want to thin out. I take a close look at my own lifestyle and habits. "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." (1 Corinthians 6:12) What are those things that may be okay for me to do but are just not helpful for me to do? What are those things that clutter my life and keep me from growing in spiritual maturity and living in the presence of God? It’s time for some hard pruning.

When we are the one being pruned we quickly find that the process is neither painless nor easy. We always need to keep God’s purpose for pruning in mind: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2) 

My rosebushes are now pruned in a manner that will grow them into a pleasing shape. And, during this season of Lent, my life also needs to be pruned into the shape that is most pleasing to God. It’s time for some hard pruning.   Amen?

This AMEN Corner was originally published March 13, 2013

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