no pain, no gain

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be more fruitful.” John 15:1, 2 

I’m so bad at yard work. I can’t keep the lines straight when I mow the lawn. I forget to water my plants and they tend to die sometime in July. I feel so lost and out of place at the Grass Pad. Gardening is a lot like math to me. Different rules for different plants. And how can you possibly remember them all?!

The worst part is that I want to be good at yard work! Seriously, there’s nothing better grabbing my ipod, soaking up my favorite vitamin and just doing work. (Like, manual labor work.)

A couple years ago I fell in love with something. The double knockout rose bush. It’s hot pink, big and beautiful. I lined the entire side of my house with them. (It still sucks driving by my old house – I feel like I left my friends there. Like I saw them grow up and now someone else is taking care of them. How is that fair? But, I digress…) I was in love with my little bushes and I wanted to take the best possible care of them that I could. I started to research and discovered that I was missing a pretty important step in the spring…pruning.

We’re talking taking a BLADE to my precious bush and CUTTING parts of it off! Sounds crazy, huh? But, I swear it’s legit. All the real gardeners do it. So, I squeezed my eyes shut, grit my teeth and starting chopping. And, to my utter surprise – come mid-summer my bushes were bigger and prettier than they were before! (Who would have thought?)

How fitting that this is the metaphor God gives us for how He helps us grow. He is the Great Gardener. I can see him putting the gloves over His massive, strong, calloused hands and setting out to work. The Word says that He removes the branches that aren’t producing anything and with ALL the others, He prunes them. That means if you’re life is actually being effective in the Kingdom, He will cut you down. And maybe cut you down so far that there is barely anything left there.

But He is the Great Gardener and He knows all the rules. He knows it will hurt. He knows you will bleed. He knows you will scream and blame Him. But, He just smiles knowing that in the end you will be better because of it. In fact, the finished result just might be breathtaking.

Last year, He pruned me. He cut me down so much that I felt there was nothing left. He took it all. Everything I loved. He didn’t even allow me time to say goodbye to my life – the house, the ministry, the kids, the marriage. It was over in an instant. And the worst part…it HURT. Sometimes I won’t even let my mind go back there. Because when I do, I feel deep, gut-wrenching, heart stopping, dark pain.

I have watched Him prune others as well. Friends who cannot get pregnant despite pleading with God. Students who have attended their own parent’s funerals. Friends who battle demons from their past, and cannot break their addictions. Family who are checked in and out of the hospital. Others call it bad luck. But we know…it’s the Great Gardener doing his work.

Because He always prunes-

before the harvest.

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