A couple of years ago, we went through a phase we lovingly referred to as, “The Pruning.”
In case you think that sounds just super fun, you’re absolutely correct.
Kinda like a stomach bug is super fun.
The season started with a devastating loss at our church. One we did not see coming. And one we were in no way prepared to experience. What followed was the pruning of friends, purpose, ministry, comfort, and our physical home.
Over the course of eight or nine months.
I never knew when God would be done. I felt lost and abandoned and unseen. And most days, all I could pray was a simple, “Lord, I want to be found faithful at the end of this journey.”
Honestly, faithfulness seemed impossible. Things and people and dreams were being chopped out of our lives and our heads were spinning. We knew basically nothing. We had never experienced a true pruning.
We faced a choice: Listen to our feelings or listen to God.
Our feelings are not truth. God’s word is truth.
Too often, we let our feelings run our life. Right? We give them power, a position of authority. And those feelings? They lie. When we chose to let them take charge, we give power and authority over to the enemy.
I refused to give the darkness authority in my life.
That power and authority belongs to Christ alone.
My feelings said the pruning wasn’t even necessary. My feelings searched for fruit on those branches being cut. Fruit the Lord must have missed and He obviously needed me to find on His behalf. But God’s word says He is the gardener and he WILL cut off what does not bear fruit. The truth of God’s word told me there was no fruit to find. Period.
My feelings pushed me down into the pit of shame and guilt and unclean. My feelings told me I was not enough and not worthy. God says I was already clean through my acceptance and belief in Jesus. “Already clean.” Not in the process of cleaning. Not dirty again and needs a new washing. No. It is done. I was clean before the pruning started and the clean had not been removed.
My feelings wanted to tell me I was alone. God and I were separated and distant and reconciliation was a lost cause. But God instructs me to “abide” in Him. Remain. Persist. Stay. God did not move. He did not leave me. The truth of His word says I needed to remain, persist and stay with Him. In Him.
So whatever my feelings? I had to let them go. Lay them at the feet of my Savior. And allow God’s holy word to speak truth into my heart.
When I felt at my worst, when faithfulness seemed completely out of reach, I made a decision. Reading and listening and memorizing scripture was step one. The next right step?
To show up.
I showed up for prayer. I showed up for conversations with Godly friends. I showed up for worship, both private and corporate. I showed up with gratitude. I showed up.
And I continued to show up.
Friend, God has not abandoned you. You are not unseen. You are not living in condemnation.
You are being refined and made new and, yes, maybe even pruned SO THAT your life will be “even more fruitful.”
If you are going through your own season of pruning, show up.
Show up to church. Actively participate in worship. Sing in your car. Pray in the shower. Ask the Holy Spirit for some of his fruits. A lot. When friends invite you to coffee or lunch or a new small group, say yes. Allow the body of Christ to serve and comfort and love you.
Show up for your commitments. Don’t allow yourself to wallow. Be where you are expected to be when you are expected to be there. Work, PTA, soccer practice, leadership meetings. Nothing is to be gained from removing yourself from the world around you. That allows your feelings to speak even louder. Don’t give the darkness space in which to speak.
Show up for honoring the people in your life. Don’t grant yourself permission to get drawn into gossip. Don’t look for someone to blame or hold on to bitterness about the circumstances or burn bridges with people God has placed in your life. God is the gardener. As much as I wanted to be angry with the people and situation, I knew that was a lie. God was pruning. Not humans.
Show up for Godly council. Open your heart to trusted, God-centered friendships. We met with leaders we trusted. Sat over coffee or a Coke and shared. They shared in our grief but they also reminded us of the Truth and the Light. Not one person spoke against us or our circumstances. But they sure spoke life and redemption and hope.
And then show up all over again.
You will, without a doubt, have to intentionally decide to do so each and every time.
Showing up may not be easy. Faithfulness may not be easy.
But it is worth it.
The good fruit God has for us is worth it.
He is worth it.
At the end of the journey, once God had finished His good work of pruning, I sat alone outside on the patio of our new house. The house God provided to us only thirteen days before we would have been homeless. I sat, silent, listening to the rain on the roof. Breathing in the cool breeze on the warm summer day.
Thank you, Lord.