“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit;… By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit;“ John 15:2,5,8
For those of us who have committed our lives to Christ Jesus, our greatest desire should be to bear much fruit and to glorify God through our lives. Yet, it is the necessary pruning process, which is talked about in the verses above, that is often the major stumbling block for Christians who desire to be fruitful (at least in how they think and speak about such desires), yet who in reality do not trust the skills of the master gardener enough to stand still and allow the pruning shears to do their work.
I have to admit, I still have apprehensions about the gardener and those shears even though I have solid proof from my past which solidify in my mind how God works for my good and the good of those around me in His excellent skill of pruning branches and producing fruit. Yet, I think it is just human nature to want to dictate how things should come about instead of letting go and allowing the unknown to take place. Allowing God to be the master gardener takes more belief and trust than any other process in our walk with Him because what He wants to do for us comes from a place and a source we cannot grasp or understand – complete faith.
But, no matter now apprehensive I can be, God has His gentle way of convincing me while I am praying to let go of a part of my life (the branch) and allow Him the right to cut it off and graft in a branch of His choosing. That is how the story I am about to share came about, as the result of prayer and God’s gentle leading to let go of what I knew needed to come about in my own life and the lives of my immediate family members, so we could be more fruitful for Him.
I have not shared this story with many people yet because the grafting scars are barely healed and the pruning pain has not faded yet into the distance. However, as the delicate and young fruit of the pruning process is finally coming forth in my family, our story is one which needs to be shared because it gives a message of hope and of God’s transforming power through adversity and in being first fruits of this branch they are ones which needs to be offered up to God for His glory just like the command to the Israelites to offer up their first fruits in thanksgiving to God.
To start our story, I first have to share with you the prayers God had led me to prayer for myself and my family members. You will see later in this story how each of these prayers directed the master gardener’s pruning shears for each of us.
Here was the list of prayers I had set before God:
- Lord allow me to let go of how I look to others and be content with just being who you allow me to be
- Lord please bring my husband to a place where he realizes His need for a Savior
- Lord show my oldest son Thomas how much you have healed him from his sensory issues and His Asperger diagnosis
- Lord reveal to my younger son Timothy his depression tendencies so he will seek healing in You and be able to use what he learns thought the process to minster to others about Your saving ability
- Lord show my daughter Maggie that she is not perfect, that she too deals with sin - as we all do
These prayers were not ones I pondered and spent a lot of time crafting, instead they were ones laid on my heart by the Holy Spirit. I want to make a quick side note here and just interject that if God is planning something in your life and has a prayer He wants to answer for you, He will not just surprise you out of the blue by giving you something you see no use for. Instead through the Holy Spirit, God changes your heart and makes you desire what He has planned for you, so when your prayer is answered you are completely overjoyed and dumbfounded in His ability to give you exactly what was in your heart. (That too I have seen happen over and over in my life.)
So my heart was changed, the prayers were uttered, and then came the pruning process –three special needs preschool foster children God put before us to consider making part of our permanent family. It’s a long story how these children came to live with us and how in the end they left our family, but over the 13 months they did live with us all of the above prayers were answered. Plus in the meantime, we were able to make a large impact in the lives of these little children also.
Here is how God worked specifically to answer each of my prayers:
For me, taking care of 7 children (my own three, the three foster children, and eventually our exchange student) left no time for me. I functioned on 4 hours of sleep a night (at best), gave up all my personal desires so I could just function and keep my family running. I had to give up leaving the house - even going out to get my hair cut. I did not have time to take care of my looks let alone get the sleep I needed. Each day I had to find contentment in what I could get done and leave the rest to God – really I had no other choice.
For my husband, he finally found the end of his patience. Now I must state that he is a wonderfully patient and compassionate man naturally who does very well in dealing with children and their issues, but because of the extreme mental conditions and special needs we were dealing with on a daily basis with the foster children (RAD, Fetal Alcohol, drug effect, abandonment issues, malnourishment, psychotic disorders, etc.) he saw the end of himself and what he could tolerate with and without the help of Jesus. Towards the end of the year-long pruning process, he made the decision to be baptized and give over his whole life to Christ – praise God!
For my older son, he stepped in a lot and acted like a second father to our foster children. His actions not only surprised my husband and me, but also were a surprise him. Thomas was able to see a new and nurturing side of himself that God had been developing ever since he started the healing process from his sensory issues and Asperger diagnosis. Thomas also made the decision to be baptized and give his life over to Christ, not knowing my husband had made that decision and talked to the pastor just a day prior.
For my younger son, he went into a very deep depression and was on the verge of taking his own life at the time the foster children left our home. Yes, he did see his tendencies – ones he could no longer ignore or deny in my presence. These past 5 months I have had the privilege of leading my son out of the pit of despair and showing him tools which will help him fight the battle of depression and win through the saving power of Jesus Christ – a battle I myself and my oldest son Thomas have already fought and come forth victorious from. Timothy too was baptized when my husband and Thomas were baptized, at that time he was hurting and saw his need for Jesus, but now he is realizing just how critical the choice he made was in his healing process.
And finally for my daughter Maggie, well you can image what comes out in the character of a 6 year-old that goes from having no younger siblings to have three special needs younger siblings. Life was not all fun and games, although there was a lot of that from time to time. Life was frustrating for the most part for her. She was all of a sudden expected to share a room, hide all of her breakable things so they wouldn’t get broken, deal with sharing, and no longer be treated like just a smaller version of the bigger kids. Maggie did see some faults in herself finally and that view has made her more aware of the sinful nature she shares with everyone else.
Pruning is not easy and I will not sugar coat what God does when you put your life in His hands. But in spite of the pain our family endured we can once again say that God is good. We can once again testify that His ways are above our ways. We are once again reminded that He is beyond being figured out. And, now looking at the process and the fruit it has produced there is no way we can confuse His work with our works.
Be encouraged today if you are feeling the pain of pruning in your life. The fruit will come and in the end and you will be glad you had the patience to wait out the process.