July 2013

It must have been around my fifteenth trip when I decided that I should have been counting. Looking at the mildly dented heap before me, it was evident that many more trips still separated me from the finish.

It had been a few years since we last had our trees and bushes tamed. Several had since reached too high in their efforts to reach the sky, whilst others were more committed to reaching into our neighbours and the odd one or two simply embraced a free style approach when it came to growing and quite frankly were a mess! And so early one morning three men with chainsaws, an industrial shredder and a piece of paper declaring they were professionally qualified to hack began to hack.

During our garden’s ordeal every neighbour felt the need to advise the tree surgeons how best to tackle this task, however the chaps politely chose to honour the owners of the trees [and also paying the bill!] and to pursue their training, ensuring the trim would still allow the trees to thrive. We had actually only made two requests; keep the screening the trees offered between us and neighbours and keep any chunks of wood that we might dry and later use as firewood.

When completed, I will admit, our first request did not appear to be fully honoured. Assurances were given and trust required as we were informed that once the trees settled into their new reduced states a better, healthier and fuller tree screen would be the result. Our second request was more clearly addressed, so much so that the piling area overflowed into a nearby flower bed and it’s previously content residents were now feeling rather crushed.

As I was telling myself to trust the tree surgeon, counting my lumber lugging journeys and wondering why I hadn’t asked the chaps to stack the wood in a sensible place, another set of thoughts started rebounding around my mind. In John 15:2 Jesus says something I had never really given much thought to “He [God] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

I looked around the garden again and studied the well pruned trees. I looked at the massive amount of wood needing to be moved and stacked. I pondered how the post-prune clear-up often took a considerable amount of time and effort. I thought of the time needed for the plants to fill out and flourish again. I wondered about me and God. About LHFC and God.

For me to grow more fruitful, for you to grow more fruitful, for our church to grow more fruitful, pruning will need to happen. Up until that moment I viewed this process as God delicately removing a twig or lovingly and sensitively secateuring a branch, I never viewed pruning as a triune set of chainsaws! And yet there I was, in a garden loved by its owners and seriously reduced by a nature respecting, qualified tree surgeon.

I’ll be honest, this thought didn’t thrill me – in fact it made me nervous. It is so much easier to embrace stretching for the skies with God, reaching into remote areas, experimenting with free-style growing – but Jesus wanted his followers to know “He [God] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

God is passionate about seeing us fruitful in Him. If we want to fully be who He created us to be, then there will inevitably be times of pruning in our lives – times when both “non-fruit bearing” and “good, fruit bearing” branches will be removed, times when we are left feeling a little bit exposed or vulnerable and times when we simply need to invest into cleaning up what has been cut away.

As I made my many journeys to stack and sort the recently removed branches, I did a lot of thinking. If I seriously wanted to see godly growth and fruitfulness in my life, I need to trust and allow God to prune, perhaps seriously prune, wherever He decides in my life.

My thinking then stretched further, if we seriously want to see godly growth and fruitfulness in our church, together we need to trust and allow God to prune, perhaps seriously prune, where He decides in our lives.

As I finished, I surveyed the stack of wood beside me and the very trimmed and tidy garden around me and two massively encouraging thoughts rested in my mind. Firstly, serious pruning sessions are not regular occurrences [it is not something to fear] but secondly, imagine, be expectant, get excited about the fruitfulness to come!.
 
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