He 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.
When I left my previous job, I was given an incredibly thoughtful and unusual (for me) leaving gift – a rose bush. The reason this gift was so unusual? I am quite possibly the least green-fingered person you will ever meet. Bar this rose bush, I have successfully and swiftly killed every plant I have ever owned.
Last week, as I was sitting reading at the little patio set on my drive, I glanced over at the potted rose bush next to my front door and noticed its sorry state. In comparison to the beautiful array of flowers blooming around the village, my poor little rose bush was withering, wilting in the scorching heat. Partially opened buds hung limply, shrouded by a sea of brittle, dead leaves that periodically fell onto the parched, cracked soil. In my enjoyment of the unexpectedly prolonged summer spell I had completely forgotten to water or tend to the rose bush in any way.
After a quick Google search (what did we do before Google?), I realised that hope was not completely lost for my little rose bush. With a bit of work, it could be revived and may not yet succumb to the same fate as all its predecessors. Firstly, I needed to clear away all of the dead leaves and branches that were choking any chance of new life, removing them completely. This involved pruning back the dead branches, plucking off any dead or diseased flowers, and clearing away all debris and weeds (pulling them up from the roots) to make way for new life. According to the website “pruning dead and unnecessary branches will allow the centre of your rose bush to grow healthier.” As you can probably imagine, all of this involved time and investment, and would have been a whole lot easier had I kept on top of it as I went along rather than waiting for the rose bush to start dying before I did anything.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
During this, somewhat arduous, process I felt God speaking to me about the parallels with my own spiritual life. You see, before lockdown I’d got myself into a bit of a spiritual rut and was experiencing a spiritual dry spell. I was going through all the motions of reading my Bible and praying, but I wasn’t really investing in my relationship with Him. In all honesty, things had become a bit stale and brittle. I had allowed distractions to swell up and choke my enthusiasm to spend time in God’s word, hanging out and speaking to Him. Not all of these distractions were negative, in fact many were positive things that I was doing for God, but nevertheless had taken a higher priority than my relationship with Him. I had allowed things to get to a point where I felt spiritually dry and parched. Unfortunately, it took a global pandemic and having extra time on my hands to make me take a good hard look at the state of my spiritual health.
When you meditate on—and delight in—the Word, you are like a tree planted by streams of water
I quickly realised that some things needed to change. Areas of my life needed pruning, cutting back and reprioritising to make room for more quality time with God to feed and strengthen my core. I needed to increase the level of spiritual nutrients I was consuming through really getting stuck into my Bible and spending time praying and listening to God. It involved getting rid of some distractions and making way for new and healthier rhythms and routines. Through this process, I came to the conclusion that if I want to bear fruit for God and represent Him to others, then I need to make sure my roots are planted deep in Him and are well fed and watered daily. Just like with my rose bush this doesn’t happen overnight, it has taken a daily commitment to intentionally invest in this vital area of my life, making small yet significant changes. It has taken time, focus, and at times hard work, but it has been so worth it to see my passion and love for God strengthened and reignited daily, once again truly coming to life. I’ll leave you with the words of a song by Lauren Daigle, “Come Alive (Dry Bones)” that has resonated so deeply with me during this season…
As we call out to dry bones come alive, come alive We call out to dead hearts come alive, come alive Up out of the ashes let us see an army rise We call out to dry bones, come alive