I have a black thumb. I absolutely love plants and love to garden, but I’m terrible at it. Even to the point now that when my youngest brings home that seedling he planted in science class, this mama gets a ten-minute lecture on how often it needs watering and how much sunlight it needs – all followed by the following plea, “Mom, please don’t kill this plant like you did all of the others.” Ha, I can’t catch a break!
No matter how often I try to water them, place them in the sunlight, and give them TLC, I typically end up over or under watering, giving them too much light or not enough light, and pruning too far back or not enough.
However, there are a couple of shrubs in our yard that, over the years, despite my inadvertent efforts to kill them, have flourished into quite the landscape. My pruning efforts on those shrubs seem to work, and each year they grow more and more lush and beautiful. Who knew!? I’m not sure how it’s even possible, but I’ll celebrate that tiny green thumb success.
I sure wish it was as easy to prune things out of my life as it is to prune those shrubs each season.
I’d like to share one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It comes from John 15:1-4:
“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 even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
As daunting as pruning can be, I know that when things are pruned just right – according to God’s will for me – ample room is made for growth. Asking God for this can be scary, because I know that there are good things in my life that He probably wants pruned out. Or some of the things He wants pruned might be really hard to walk away from. I know that it’s not always the “bad things” that get pruned. They are things that served their purpose for the time they were a part of us, and then needed to be pruned away. It might be so that someone else is given an opportunity to step into a new role. Or it may be because God needs us to make room for something even better. Or it may even be that we’re too ‘lush’ and ‘full’ and we simply need to make room to, well, breathe. Pruning can be painful. Pruning can be liberating. Pruning can be uncomfortable. Pruning can be life-giving. That’s why it’s scary territory for many of us.
But the one universal truth about pruning – it always leaves room for growth.
This new year I am asking God what can be pruned in order to make room for new things. I sense I need to do this for several reasons. For one, it’s a healthy, regular rhythm to get into with God. Also, I know I can’t do it all and I know I need space for new things, as well as space to breathe. I know that His plans are much better than my plans (“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.”– Jeremiah 29:11), and that I need to trust in that promise (“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.– Proverbs 3:5) so I want to seek His counsel on that (“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8).
With all of this in mind, my prayer rhythm for this new year looks like this:
Praise – Praise God for all that I have, and all He has done in my life.
Repent/Confess – Turn away from the things that I know God does not want me to place my focus on.
Ask – Ask God what needs to be pruned out of my life – cut away or cut back.
Yield – Surrender my prayers to God.
Listen – Listen to what God might have for me. This means being in His word regularly (God speaks to us through his word), being in community with other believers who can speak truth to me (letting others know what I’m doing so that they may join me in prayer and discernment), and being very observant and discerning of my surroundings (I’m asking God to speak loud and clear around these things). I’m asking Him to reveal Himself and to help me prune things that need pruning and hold onto things He still wants my hand in.
As hard as it may be to prune old things, I do embrace change and the ‘new’, especially at the start of a new year. I know I have to want God to take me to new places more than I want God to keep me in the comfortable places. That may mean pruning some things that I love, but I know it’s what He wants for me and I know it’s necessary for that lush, beautiful growth.
As I glance out my window at those beautiful shrubs awaiting spring’s bloom, I recognize that while they seem perfect just as they are, they will need to be pruned again next summer in order to continue to flourish. Friends, we’re never done. We have endless growth ahead of us. And in order to flourish, each season, just as those shrubs, we will need to be pruned.
Lord, thank you so much for the opportunities and blessings in my life. I know you want an abundant life for me, my husband, and our boys, and that may mean pruning old things in order to make room for new things. I pray you give me the discernment and open heart to accept the new things you have for me and for our family, and the discipline and obedience to prune the old away. I ask all of this in the name of your precious son, Jesus’ name, Amen.