It’s at this time that I need to introduce the biggest, most consistent inspiration of learning, growth, insight, and so many other traits I could never have possibly attained alone: my sister. While studies do show that siblings can in many cases be more influential to a child than their parents, it also usually stands that until you meet a person’s parents, that person won’t make total sense. This isn’t the case for me, for while I’ve been truly blessed by parents who love and encourage me, I won’t make much sense until you’ve met my sister. I’ve said it before, and I will likely say it many times in the future, that I could write entire books solely on the things I’ve learned by watching and listening to my sister.
The reason I’m introducing her now is because she, too, has a blog (a much better one, might I add) and in her most recent post, she talks some of the pruning she’s experienced in her life over the past year. I highly recommend you read it (and everything else she’s written). It’s a metaphor I’m rather familiar with, the one about God pruning us like a gardener does a plant to enable us to grow fruit more healthily. What I hadn’t thought about until I was reading my sister’s blog was this one, very simply truth:
You don’t prune a dead plant.
Put differently, the act of pruning is really only necessary for plants which are otherwise growing and producing all the usual fruits. The gardener–or in our case, the One True Gardener–cuts back the bits and pieces that are holding the plant back from more growth. I’d always taken it as the gardener basically amputating sicknesses to keep the plant alive. Can you see the difference? The biggest effectual change in this difference is that the healthier the plant is, the more branches it yields and the more opportunities to prune it creates. But you don’t prune a dead or dying plant. You burn it and start over (or I guess just throw it in the trash, if you’re too urban for minor arson). And the less healthy a plant is, the less growth there is and the less a gardener will have the opportunity to prune it.
The significance of this fundamental shift of mentality, for me, has been immense. I’m no longer having to work for a perfection I’ll never achieve just to minimize the damage I deal in this life. Because unlike an amputation, a pruned branch grows back, usually with more fruit and more branchces than before. You don’t have to be an amputee to know that what the surgeons cut off will never grow back. And that’s the glorious thing about God’s grace and redemption that He’s bringing about in our lives; we grow back more whole and pure than we were before, not less. I’d always thought that because of my inadequacies, God would have to cut something out He’d originally created for good. The guilt, and then the shame, that accompanied my seasons of pruning were an area in and of themselves that needed pruning, creating even more shame and guilt… you can see where that cycle goes.
That the loss of a pruned branch is the growing pain of a maturing soul and not the casualty of God’s original plan was a new and foreign thought to me, one I desperately needed to learn. I began to feel free to lean into my Pruner’s sheers, really see what it is He wants me to grow into, mourn the loss of what was dear and look on for what is greater and yet to come, stop using more of my time in this life trying to earn back what I thought I was too sinful and incompetent to keep.
Redemption in Christ is not supposed to look like a more functional version of what you were; it’s supposed to be very different. New branches grow from the healed scars of the dead and gone, and a fuller, more fruitful, and more beautiful tree grows on, more alive than it ever was before. And that is what God’s plan has always been.