Let’s offer ourselves up to be pruned and be amazed at the fruit the Vine produces.
For as long as I can remember, I have had very vivid dreams. Some are so out there that when I wake up, it’s easy to remember they weren’t real (case in point: the recurring dream I used to have about hair, where one bunch of hair had kidnapped another bunch of hair). But there are others that take me a few minutes to shake out of when I awaken, that stick with me for hours or a full day and make me eye Trevor or other loved ones with a touch of suspicion.
Tonight as I was putting the older boys to bed, I started to drift off while laying next to Branch. I must have started dreaming because when I jolted awake I felt disoriented, and for a few moments, I wondered if this whole pandemic had been a dream. There was a split second where I thought about trying to describe it to Trevor (“It was crazy! Everything was shut down including schools, and we started buying fashion face masks on Etsy and having drive by birthday parties. So weird.”)
But of course, it hasn’t been a dream. We are starting week ten of this reality and I find that the further and further along we go, the more and more rebellious I get to the whole idea. Not the idea of doing our duty by loving other people well - but the idea that life is different now. I’m terrified that Branch’s first experience of pre-k and Abbott’s of 1st grade will be online. That somehow Trevor and I will be expected to keep living in 1,000 square feet with our three children, using our limited space to eat, play, rest, learn, work, grow.
This weekend, I got the chance to speak at church on the idea of abiding in Jesus - of just being with Him. This includes things like reading the Bible and praying - all the Christian practices that have become cliches because there is truth in how valuable they are in drawing close to Jesus. But one of the parts of the passage was, “Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
Right now feels like a time of pruning. Maybe that’s short-sighted in light of the terrible truth of starvation and economic collapse and loss of life. I’m not saying that what we’ve suffered compares to any of that. But that it’s still a suffering, still a challenge - still a time of pruning. And if we’re being pruned, it’s to grow. It’s because the farmer looks at the branches and goes, “There’s more that branch can produce, but only if I cut it back first.”
I don’t know how much extra fruit I’ve produced these last few weeks. I don’t know if it’s any, to be honest. But the fact is, this isn’t over yet. No matter how many restrictions are lifted, this is still not over. The shears are still at the twigs, cutting, slicing, tearing apart in an effort to free up room for better, purer, real-er things to grow.
There is still time. Of course, there is always time - every day of our lives is a new day to grow and change, etc. etc. etc. I know. But this pandemic has given us an unasked for, indefinite swath of time to offer our branches up to the Farmer and say, “Go for it.”
So I’m glad this has not been a dream. I’m not glad it’s real - but I am glad that the harvest hasn’t been collected, the pruning is not done, the fruit is not counted. Two months ago, I wrote, “What a waste of an imposed pause, to be exactly the same when the button is released as I was when it was pushed.” That was on Day Two. We’re now on Day 62, and I find myself back in that place, echoing that same sentiment. I don’t want to leave this, two weeks, two months, or two years from now the same as when I started.
But the best part of John 15, where God tells us we are being pruned to grow, is the promise - that He abides in us. We are not alone. We are not asked (or expected) to do any of this of our own strength. The vine is our source, and we are the branches. Our only task is to stay firmly connected to it so our lives can show the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, and goodness.
So, as ever, onward. Let’s offer ourselves up to be pruned and be amazed at the fruit the Vine produces.