This Pruning Year

" . . . every branch that bears fruit He prunes,

that it may bear more fruit."

John 15:2

Hello, dear friends.

I've had quite a revelation stirring up my mind and soul these past two days. It is causing a complete reframing of this past hard year, and I can hardly believe it is happening.

On Sunday morning, I settled in at my desk for some time of devotion with God. Are you familiar with the lectio divina method of reading Scripture? It's a way of reading that allows for deep introspection and personal response, usually in such a way that evokes a conversation between one's soul and God.

This is the way I most often read the Scriptures in the morning. I'll take a psalm or other small passage in the Bible and, before I begin, will sit with the page open before me on the desk and consciously open my heart to God. I'll ask him to meet with me through the words we're about to read together.

Then I'll read through the psalm or passage once, often aloud, and then sit for a few moments and reflect on what I just read. If I have questions about what I read, I voice those questions to God. If something doesn't make sense or is hard for me to fathom, I tell God about it. If I find myself adoring God just a little bit more by what I learned of him in that section of Scripture, I tell him that too.

And then I go back to the beginning of the passage and begin to read it again, this time a bit more slowly. (This is the real heart of the lectio divina practice.) During this second time through, I pay more careful attention to the words, asking God to alight my eyes upon a small portion that is to be my focus of devotion for the morning.

Here's where this practice created a complete reframing of this past year for me on Sunday.

I was sitting with a somewhat lengthy passage in John 15, and on my second time through it, a verse near the beginning of the chapter completely arrested me: ". . . every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." When I came to these words, it was like they jumped off the page in brilliant and holographic light. I couldn't stop reading and re-reading them. I kept turning the verse around in my mind, hearing it again and again, tasting it on my tongue.

Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 

It was so clear to me in that moment that this verse applied to me and this last year of chaos I've sustained. There's no doubt that my "branch," at the end of last summer, was bearing much fruit. As I told one friend yesterday, it was like huge mounds of fruit were bursting off my branch at that time . . . fruitfulness upon fruitfulness everywhere! And like I said a couple posts ago, I emerged from that summer feeling more healthy, spiritually and emotionally speaking, than I'd felt in my entire life.

But then I was swept into chaos. Waves upon waves came crashing down on me, and no matter which way I turned, I couldn't seem to catch my breath or find any semblance of peaceful waters.

I kept looking to my circumstances, seeing how they might need to change change. And in late November, I landed on the word "congruence" and went about pruning back some of my commitments. (I can hardly believe this now, but I even used a tree and branch metaphor and image for this process of discernment at the time!)

There was a little bit of calm after that initial pruning in November, but still the waters felt prone to choppiness, and when I started my full-time job in January, the tumult started up all over again. I couldn't seem to catch my breath. I just couldn't get any kind of grip on life.

Again, it was so, so strange.

It's been such a sadness to me, the pain and tumult of this past year. I've written before that it contained an incredible amount of loss, primarily through relationships I couldn't maintain because of all the many which ways I was being swept from one end of the ocean to the other in what seemed to be every single waking second of each day.

But more recently, I've been noticing an incredible sense of loss that is more spiritual in nature . . . a loss of who I had been in the world, to God and to others, when I was standing in that whole and healthy place before the chaos began. Where had that girl gone? How long will it take her to recover from this year? The word regression keeps coming to mind.

Up to this point, having made the decision to leave full-time work, I have had such mixed feelings about what transpired through the course of this year. Because of the way my decision to leave my job came about, it's so clear that God has used this last year's experience to fully clarify in my mind how he made me to exist in this world, not only for his own glory and my health, but also for the benefit of others. My decision to leave my job was wholeheartedly, then, about claiming these truths and doing what was necessary to continue striding forward toward the work he has given me to do in this world. (I'm sure at some point I will share more of this story and its implications with you.)

But even though I can see how God used the year to clarify his intents and purposes for me, which has been such a great gift on the back end of what felt like nothing but pain and confusion, I've still felt that acute sense of loss. I've felt anger about this. And I've even felt a lot of shame, as though the tossing and jostling in those waves was my own dense inability to know how to ride waves instead.

But no more.

Now, because of John 15:2, I see that this has been a pruning year. Every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. My God has been pruning me this year. There's something in me that needed to be pruned. And he did it so that I could bear more fruit.

It's no wonder I felt such pain and confusion: I was having whole pieces of myself lopped off with each incisive and precise clip of my smart gardener's shears! But even more than that, he's helping me see through this revelation that the tumult and confusion is not my fault at all. It is his doing. His intentional purpose for me. He has work that he's about in me, and he's been going about it, even if I've been unable to understand what was happening.

You can bet I'm going to be sitting with this one for quite a while. There's so much here for me to learn and better see.