Gardeners will understand the necessity of pruning for growth better than I will, but I have heard a number of people talk at length about the need to cut back, the need to prune, to enable whatever is growing to become what it is meant to be – and this is not just in the context of gardening!
Pruning is one of those things we talk about, we even suggest to others, but when it hits us, how on earth do we cope with it?
The first thing to understand is that if we are to grow, and if what we are part of is to grow, then pruning is not just something to talk about, but it is an absolute necessity. We often don’t like to face up to this reality, but it is true, and if we are serious about growth, then we had better get to grips with the truth of pruning.
Growth is something I am sure we would all sign up for, so what is it that stops us from embracing the reality of pruning?
Fear: we often have a fear that to be pruned means that we will no longer engage with what we have engaged with, and that we will be seen in a different light. Often our fear comes from how we think others will view us, rather than the reality of what it is that God is doing with us. Cutting back in our lives by God could and will mean that God has other growth for us to live out. Fighting against that pruning and allowing the fear to dominate will stop the growth for ourselves, but also for what God has for us.
Comparison: out of fear, comes our thoughts around comparison. If we are being pruned and things are being taken off us, and others are running with what we have been involved in, we may experience fear of being compared to this other person, especially if that person takes what you were doing to the next level. We see things in the light of comparison as opposed to seeing things in the light of building. Often we will be part of God building something, but then be pruned, to enable others take it to the next level, and maybe even for us to start something new.
Proving self: out of comparison comes our human instinct to prove ourselves to others around us. Proving is human nature, but it isn’t from God. We don’t need to prove ourselves to him – Jesus didn’t need to before he heard the words, “You are my son, with whom I am well pleased”, at his baptism. But often we will fight the need to be pruned, because it doesn’t necessarily look humanly good, and so we want to prove ourselves to others around us.
Need to build: out of our need to prove ourselves, can come the instinct to need to keep building. We don’t embrace the idea very well that pruning can and does strengthen the foundations for the growth that is to come. Often as we grow, or things grow around us, there can be, and often is overgrowth, and things start to look messy once they have overgrown. Pruning needs to take place to ensure that overgrowth doesn’t happen, and that things can grow in the way that they are meant to, looking as God wants them to look. So we need to put aside our own thoughts of us continually pushing to grow what it is we are involved in, to enable it to be what God wants it to be.
Pruning in John 15 is a good thing, a necessary thing, a godly thing, a growth thing, and a releasing thing. The truth is, we will not be the people God wants us to be unless we are prepared to face up to the reality of pruning.
These are just some starter thoughts – there could well be more as I reflect upon this over the summer, but maybe this is something to think through as summer moves on. Where is it that God is wanting to prune you? What does pruning feel like, and are you open to the growth that God has (and therefore open to the pruning he wants)?