Two people I am very close to are going through seasons of pruning in their spiritual life right now. One is very open and honest about her season and she and I talked about it at length this week.
I have been through pruning seasons before but unlike my friend, I was not aware enough to know that God was working in my life. I saw the fruit of it much later but while I was in the midst of it I didn’t know what to call it other than agony.
The passage in John 15 where Jesus is talking about the vine and the branches is one of my favorite in scripture (maybe my very favorite, okay I have a lot of favorites, it’s in my Top 5). There is something there for me in that passage that harkens back to the original Garden when God walked there “in the cool of the day”. I’m not a gardner, I don’t claim it as one of my hobbies or necessities, I don’t expect I ever will. However, the poetry of these verses makes the discipline of gardening very vivid for me.
As I reread it this week I was struck particularly by verse 3 which says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” I was suddenly aware that this verse makes all the rest of the verses bearable. I don’t think God would take the trouble to prune someone that wasn’t worth keeping, that he hadn’t already redeemed. Pruning is never comfortable. It’s hard work on our part even with God’s help and guidance. So with this verse in place, I can see beyond the pruning discussed in the other verses, to the growth of character on the other side of the season.
I have watched these two people struggle with their pruning, not against God but against the difficulty of their individual situations. They are doing it with grace and perseverance. I am proud of them and glad of their examples for me and others. I hope the next time I experience this kind of season I can recognize it for what it is and call it by name so that I know on the other side is spectacular growth of character in Christ.