Last weekend, I rested. Oddly, resting to me involves digging in the dirt, cleaning out the yard, hearing the birds chirp as I messy myself with soil and worms and plants.
This rest involved pruning back dead wood.
I realized something quite startling as I clipped dead branches: the dead ones were easier to snap than the live ones. The dead is easier to prune than the alive. And when you prune back the dead, the alive has the best chance to flourish.
In that moment, I remembered Jesus’ words in John 15 about pruning, how the Father prunes back our branches so we’ll yield more fruit. What if, I thought, we would rather have the dead wood and not let it be pruned? What if we envisioned our ministry lives as doing A, when God wanted to cut back A so B would grow? To prune the dead in favor of the alive?
(And what if I didn’t like that?)
Then the deeper question came: What if what I wanted wasn’t what God wanted? (click to tweet) What if I have been coddling dying branches in hopes of doing something significant? And all the while the real work God had for me was trying to grow, but I’ve neglected it because I’ve held on to the dead wood?
Perhaps an example will help:
Let’s say Angie’s life has been utterly changed by a speaker who spoke amazing God-breathed words. Angie thinks, “I want to do what that speaker does. I want other people to be changed just like I was changed.” So Angie works for years on a speaking career, pursuing it at the cost of other ministries, because she believes that speaking is the place God wants her. Yet one day, she realizes that how God has wired her has not been to speak to thousands, but to share life one on one, as a mentor to troubled girls.
What she wanted: to impact the world, one stage at a time.
What God had possibly intended: to impact the world, one person at a time.
As I posted on Monday, I’m growing weary. I’m asking these tough questions. I’m wondering if what I want and what God wants are the same thing. I’m wondering if perhaps my dreams are dead wood that needs to be pruned so the alive wood will grow. I’m wondering what the next pruning will be, and how painful it will be.
Have you ever been there? You’ve worked on what you thought was the next big thing only to realize that maybe it wasn’t the pursuit God had for you?
I don’t have an answer. I am in the process of pruning. But here’s what I want: I want to follow the path God has for me. I want to be meek enough to realize when I’m trying to produce ministry on dead wood. I want to walk in the footsteps God has laid before me instead of trying to force Him to do my plan.
God’s plan must prevail. And I must be still and quiet enough to know when I’m getting in the way.