Isn’t it crazy when God begins moving IN you, before you know He is getting ready to move you? Sometimes, we think we know just what the future looks like, where we will be for the next 25 years, and then all of sudden, everything changes. This was me, a year and a half ago. I was right where I wanted to be, doing just what I wanted to do, and thought I knew God’s plan for my life for the next 25 years. Yes, I had the actual number of 25 years in my head. Then God began to stir, just ever so slightly.
I was doing my dream job. Things God specifically called me to do. I loved the people I was serving and had a vision for where we were going. However, the business of church, was beginning to take precedence, and I was moved from the area where I was producing the most fruit. I started to think maybe my 25 year plan was changing.
A few months later, my job once again changed and I was back in youth ministry. One day, I was driving through my neighborhood, right as the high school let out for the day. Piles of teenagers were walking home, and God said as clear as day, “When are you going to stop begging them to come into your space and get into theirs?”
Wow! I paused for a long moment and really thought about that. A major part of my job was to create a space for teenagers to come into. Of course there are many other aspects to youth ministry, but I had been working exceptionally hard to bring teenagers in. God was not done with me. Two days later, watching these same teenagers, God said the same words. “When are you going to stop begging them to come into your space and get into theirs.” After trying to have lunch on the high school campus and not succeeding, I began brainstorming ideas, trying to be creative about how to get into their space. For the first time, I truly thought, maybe it was time to change careers, so I could share the good news and be a light for Jesus, more effectively.
A few more months went by, and one Sunday, after moving furniture to reset a room, carrying down supplies, and figuring out what to do with too few volunteers, I was frustrated. Week after week, it did not matter how good the program was, there were only a handful of people who really cared, which was evident by their participation or lack thereof. I knew there could be so much more fruit, from all the labor. I asked God, “How long are we going to do this?” And I knew change was near. I could see my 25 year plan was just that. My plan. God was moving in me, before He moved me. It was time for some pruning.
John 15, talks to us about pruning, verses 1-4 say, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
Now the problem with pruning, is it is most often painful, and mine was. Just a few short weeks after my question to God, I found out, my job would be changing once again. I decided, it was time to leave. This was a painful decision, and at first, I did not understand it. I was angry and hurt. But I now see, this was the pruning. This part of my life, was not producing much fruit, and spending so much time, trying to grow that fruit was hindering growth in other parts of my life, like raising my children, and my marriage. No matter how painful, it was time to cut off that branch, because it was making everything else unhealthy.
This past weekend, at the Propel, Activate conference, one of the pastors, Lisa Harper, spoke to this very thing, and it was finally clear to me. She said, “Sometimes pain is punitive and sometimes it is refining. Sometimes, God says, I am going to prune you, and it is going to hurt. It may feel like God is cutting your right arm off. But God can see two years down the road and He wants you to bear new fruit.” And God said to me, “Yes.” In this moment, I was able to look back all the way to a year and a half ago and see how God began moving in me, before He moved me.
So I ask you friends. What is God stirring in your heart? Can you see Him moving inside you right now? Creating a holy dissatisfaction in an area of your life? Or what has recently been pruned? Are you feeling anger and hurt over it? Are you working hard to hang onto that branch?
We know, trees and bushes need to be pruned every now and then to produce good, healthy fruit. We have seen a tree with a struggling branch suck the life out of the other branches. The verses in John, tell us, we are the same. We cannot expect new things to grow and new, healthy fruit to appear if we are unwilling to let some others go. Sometimes the pain is refining.
I do not know what is two years down the road for me. What I know, is the job I was doing was comfortable, easy, did not cause me to move out of my comfort zone, did not cause me to grow or even really to GO….
I also know, this is not the life God chose for, or called us to. I can feel it in the depths of my being, He is asking so much more of us. Up until this point, the roles I have been in, have not allowed me to use all the gifts God has given me, have you been there? I settle and say, this is good enough. Most of the time, I have felt like I am trying to run and someone is holding onto the back of my shirt, and I do not want to settle anymore. I hope you are feeling the same way. Christ followers who refuse to settle for comfort and ease, will change the world and build the Kingdom. Let’s want more.
Thank you for reading today. I would love to hear how God is stirring or pruning you in the comments. I would also love to pray with you, if you are having trouble coming to terms with the pruning like I was. Pruning is a hard time, and we should not walk through it alone.
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