I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
A little over a year ago, I was sitting on my bedroom floor, spending some time in Scripture and praying to the Lord. I was in the midst of a desert season; every occurrence in this circumstance seemed to draw me into a deeper sadness and devastation. I felt I was barely hearing God's voice, which made the desert feel even more dry and bleak. I distinctly remember becoming silent in my prayer and looking up from my Bible, directing my gaze to the corner of my bedroom where my plants were, remembering I forgot to water them this week. So I got up off the floor to water my plants. As I watered them, I also noticed a couple of yellow leaves and weakening stems. How sad, I thought. And I gently moved aside the healthy leaves to reach the dying ones and removed the withering leaves and sad stems. While I was doing this, I remembered my unfinished quiet time with the Lord and was briefly upset for becoming so easily distracted.
But how He ministered to my heart in this moment made me wonder whether it was a distraction. The Lord showed me that — how I was tending to my plants, watering them, dealing gently with them, and removing what wasn't thriving — in the same way He was also tending to my soul. My plants might have "hurt" as I removed what was dying, but that pain didn't mean I didn't care for or love my plants; it actually meant quite the opposite. The Lord, the tender gardener of our souls, removes what doesn't bear fruit so more fruit may come, and so we may thrive. Why? Because He loves us. I was in a painful season, and I truthfully attributed much of that pain to the Lord, damaging my view of Him. However, He revealed to me that the pain from the removing and pruning wasn't an absence of His care and His love but rather the fullness of it.
Reflect on what is hurting in your life, and invite the Lord into that pain. Ask Him how and what He may be removing or pruning in your life. Ask Him about the kind of thriving life He is preparing you for. Create space for His response. He wants to speak!
Ponder the Lord as the gardener of your soul, that His every movement comes ONLY from His love and care for you. Soak in this love. Let it heal all that is hurting and any damaged view of Him. It may not happen right away, but He is always faithful to heal.
Lord, thank You for who You are. I know I may not always understand Your movement in my life, especially when it hurts. Open my eyes to perceive what You are pruning and removing from my life, and open my heart to believe that it is only out of Your love for me. I know Your love is gentle and kind. Remove any hold that my pain has on my life and calling, and continue to garden my soul so I may thrive and be a reflection of You. In Your name, amen.